Recreating Tsujigahana in a modern world / The Textile Artistry of Itchiku Kubota – Part 2

Recreating Tsujigahana in a modern world / The Textile Artistry of Itchiku Kubota – Part 2


Now, he was only a young man and he was 19/20 when he started to have a real reputation. But at the age of twenty, he suddenly discovered something that really changed his life and this was the Tsujigahana, the technique I mentioned earlier, this ancient technique that was used to decorate textiles. It too was a resist kind of dyeing technique, but it used tying rather than paste, so it was much more intense again, very labour-intensive. And once the dyeing had been done, the Tsujigahana textiles would be touched up with ink drawings, sometimes with gold leaf, sometimes with embroidery. And the examples that I’m showing you here, there aren’t a lot of full kimono done with Tsujigahana that are still in existence and what you see on here, is the screen where you have pieces of two kimono where the cloth was taken and mounted on a screen because they were so rare, they wanted to be preserved. And you have a wonderful example of Tsujigahana here and a detail over there, where you can see that the white areas were stitched around, pulled tight and then protected during the dye and when the dyeing was done, then they were taken and flattened out and you would have ink drawing done on them to make the whole thing a little bit more elegant. So, Kubota saw a design like this, a piece of textile. Only a fragment of textile in a museum and became entranced with it. It really captivated his imagination and at
20 years old he said, “This will be my life’s work, this is something I want to learn how to recreate.” Now, keep in mind, this technique disappeared at the end of the 17th century; so around 1699, or thereabouts. And nobody in the modern day textile trade knew how to do any of these techniques. You did know how to paste tie resist, but they could not really duplicate the kind of work that was done on these textiles, so Kubota had a really lot of work laid out for him. One of the things he realised very soon though in his research and his experimentation, was that he was not going to be able to reproduce Tsujigahana exactly as it had been in the early years. The types of fabric we had today, in his day were different, the types of dye used were different, So he decided ultimately, was that it would be necessary to recreate it in a style that fit the modern world. And this is where he really put his skills as a Yuzen dyer to good effect, because he used Yuzen dyeing, a combination of Yuzen dying tie dyeing, which, the form he used is known as Shibori in Japan and it’s a very intense tightly, tightly tied kind of dyeing technique where you have to make hundreds if not thousands of little ties to get the right effect. He also had studied Western art as well as Japanese art and so he took all of these things, the combination of modern dyes, his experience in Yuzen, his understanding of Japanese and Western art, of new types of fabric that could be used and just put this all together to create ‘his’ version of Tsujigahana, which he called Itchiku Tsujigahana, because he wanted a reference to this textile that had so inspired him. Something similar to the one on my left and then what he came up with on his own, a piece of each Itchiku Tsujigahana where you can really see that he’s used the elements, but that it goes beyond what the original one was. He did several decades of research and he was a perfectionist too and it wasn’t until, oh, the 1970s, the early to mid-1970s, that he felt he had enough control of the Tsujigahana to really start exhibiting it. And this is one of his early pieces, it’s from 1980, in a minute I’ll show you another early piece, that’s a little bit earlier than this, but this gives you an idea of where he was coming from. It’s a very traditional design in some ways, the weeping cherry tree, that’s a constant
motif in Japanese art and in Japanese textiles. And so looking at this at first you might think, well, it’s a traditional type kimono. But then you look at the kind of dyeing techniques he used the ink work that’s on it and it becomes a very different thing. But this was one of the first pieces he showed in the 1980s. And let me just go onto the next one, which was in his first exhibition in the 1977 exhibition. I think that was at Mikimoto in Tokyo, if I remember correctly. So, this was one of his very early pieces too and a kimono that looks like a regular kimono in some ways. But the design is just very, very
different In the earlier pieces he does tend to look more traditional. He tends to use traditional kinds of elements. This cloud-like form, you see in a lot of older kimono, This lozenge, this sort of almost zigzag form, that appears in many, many traditional designs. But then when you start looking at the detail and the kind of dyeing, that’s where the differences really come up. And in these early kimono he did stick mostly to dyeing. He was careful with the kind of ink drawing he did, But it did start to change over time and when we see the later kimono you will see that they are very, very intensely drawn, as well as intensely dyed.

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