Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"The Fuju River on the Tokaido" by Shotei Hokuju

I love Hokuju's work primarily because of the bright, clean use of color and simplified geometry of his landscapes. This scene almost appears like a toy model. The hills jut up from the ground like a Rubik's snake toy in contrast to Mount Fuju, which is flat and white, like a paper cut out. Puffy, cartoonish clouds arise from the blue on the horizon, creating a cheery backdrop. All this brings me to see the tiny figures as plastic figurines, an impression that is only reinforced by the disproportionate largeness of many of the trees. The swift-flowing river gives the image some movement; I imagine the boatmen fighting the movement as they struggle to simply cross the river rather than get caught in its tide. Just as the overall image strikes me as toy-like, the lord and his entourage seem puny when set within such a whimsical and overwhelming landscape. With so many of the Edo period Japanese printmakers I find a subtle reverence for nature and its power over mankind, but only with Hokuju's prints do I come to this interpretation in such a happy manner.

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