Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk @ V&A

first viewed on Friday 06.03.2020

in Japan
Kimono means ‘the thing to wear’
by 1615, the beginning of the Edo period (1615-1868), all men and women were wearing Kimonos
Japan had few commercial dealings with the outside world until the 1850’s when it opened its ports to foreign powers
until then Kyoto had been the capital, afterwards, the town named Edo was renamed Tokyo and made the capital

middle 17th century distinctive fashion culture emerged in Kyoto, the centre of textile production
already at this time however kimonos were exported to Europe with immediate impact on dress styles

in Japanese clothing the body is irrelevant – it is the flat surface of the kimono that is important
it is capable of carrying innumerable ‘messages’ regarding its wearer

the construction of the kimono is relatively simple
the exhibition shows one example where six long bands of cloth are cut to various sizes and then sown together (see notes 2)
to these lining would have been added and sometimes silk filaments for added warmth

antique kimonos often have what I would call ‘draught-excluder hems’ rolled up and often brightly coloured

kimonos were tied at the waist with sashes called obi
in 18th century women’s fashion these were very wide and exuberant, often made of richly woven brocade
many obi do not survive being repeatedly tied and are not treasured like luxury kimonos

shoes were sometimes very high to elevate the wearer above the snow for instance (see notes 5)

beautiful prints at the exhibition
– some show women wearing several layers of kimonos
– others show women choosing kimonos from a dealer who would have brought them samples of material and pattern books
customers would select a pattern but then discuss specific details – changing the size and placing of motifs for instance

kimonos may have been dyed and then also embroidered

family crests were often featured on the shoulders

the exhibition displays an incandescent number of patterns and designs, mostly modern looking
some incorporating western designs like Art Nouveau and Art Deco too numerous to mention here
the styles that kimonos can adopt are limitless
films are shown of Freddie Mercury, David Bowie and Star Wars amongst others who seem to adopt the idea of a kimono

the exhibition does not sow many ancient kimonos but the Japan room has examples of some
the patterns were often symbolic and important
often to invoke good fortune on the wearer in some way
or beneficial in some way
delicately patterned detailed landscapes of trees, flowers and grasses
flowing water and mist
thatched cottages and fishing boats
could feature on the kimono of a young unmarried woman from the military (samurai) elite

wedding kimonos:
the exhibition tells of a tradition to wear pure white kimonos in the procession to the grooms house
then changing colour to richly decorated outer kimonos

in the Japan room the display mentions that paper ornaments of male and female butterflies often wrapped around bottles of sake symbolize harmony of the newly married couple
this is featured on a richly coloured wedding kimono in red which is also thought to be auspicious

in the room next to Japan, the China room, an example of a robe for Daoist priests also drapes over the body, though without sleeves it is made of a heavy, richly woven textile cloth with sumptuous decorations

the kimono brings to my mind God’s continued effort to make people all over the globe feel more comfortable, this being about clothing and protecting the body from elements, be they too much cold or sunshine
examples abound, ponchos, kaftans, monk’s and nun’s outfits to name but a few
all using materials to help until some other way can be inspired perhaps
using what cultural inclinations are available in each place and time

in Japan the imagery created by the textiles made kimonos the wonderful creations we know them to be today

notes taken on the day

VAM description in its collections

on my way to the Kimono exhibition I noticed this mosaic entitled Apelles
this reminded me of an Italian tongue-twister:

Apelle figlio d’Apollo
Fece una palla di pelle di pollo
E tutti i pesci vennero a galla
Per vedere la palla di pelle di pollo
Fatta d’Apelle figlio d’Apollo

roughly translated as:
Apelles son of Apollo
made a ball of skin of chicken
and all the fish floated up to the surface
to see the ball of skin of chicken
made by Apelles son of Apollo

Glass collection @ V&A

The picture of display n.33 (vam glass display 37) is out of focus – will need to be replaced in due course – apologies
It may not be the same as some objects had been removed from many of the display cases.The V&A have a major project to conserve and photograph the V&A’s Glass collection at present.

Troy – Myth and Reality @ British Museum

exhibition on 14.02.2020

Carefully and imaginatively displayed exhibition, at one point visitors walk through a construction looking like giant wooden ribs to indicate the Troyan Horse

quick notes initially:

Three displays reminded me of God’s recent paintings

Two remind me of today’s additional painting, the red triangles

Cy Twombly (1928-2011) painting of Achilles’ Vengeance

very large painting of lines creating a triangle shape with red at the tip
apparently likened to both the initial of his name the letter A and a bloodied spear
and representing his anger which led to the killing of Hector

the other is also Achilles, Wounded Achilles, by Filippo Albacini (1777-1858), the sculpture used to advertise the exhibition, but seen from the back, has Achilles’ spear lying at his hand, and the arrow in his foot as well as his leg all making kind of triangle or arrow shapes, as though pointing at something and reminding me of the way the triangles or arrows in the painting today also seem to be pointing at something

the third was another sculpture about Scylla. After the Fall of Troy the survivors on both sides had difficult sea journeys. Odysseus had to travel through a strait with Scylla on one side and Charybdis on the other. Scylla was a human eating multi-headed sea monster. The sculpture has her right arm raised over her head exposing the area of her chest underneath her right arm
Odysseus lost 6 men, but his ship sailed through. This reminded me of yesterday’s additional painting with the six circles in the centre and two more on the outside

interesting to me that the circles are all the same, the 6 crew that were lost, Odysseus’ men and the two on the outside perhaps representing Scylla and Charybdis, are represented by the same symbol, blue sphere with a C on one side in Raw Sienna. The 6 spheres being pulled towards one of the two other spheres, namely Scylla who destroys them in the story, telling me that all are made of the same stuff underneath all the differences, namely all are part of God

The entire story and perhaps its enduring appeal to me speak of the same thing.

The exhibition tells that the initial cause of the War was because an Apple was thrown with the inscription ‘to the most beautiful’ and three Goddesses had wanted the Apple for themselves, Aphrodite, Athena and Hera. Paris hands Aphrodite the Apple, causing dismay to Athena and Hera which then causes the War

to my mind the problem here was that Aphrodite, Athena and Hera were seen as separate Goddesses
if Paris had realised they were all representing God and therefore one, perhaps he might have thought up a different solution, giving the apple to the one, allowing the one to choose where it would be best placed

the exhibition tells of all the survivors of the War having to face difficult sea voyages
indicating to me there is no victor or loser in a war
because all are one

the exhibition also tells how the story was long believed to have been made up by Homer even though he gives detailed accounts of location
the location was discovered by Heinrich Schliemann and Frank Calvert apparently found the city excavating in 1863
but the truth about whether the War occurred or not is not known
many layers have been discovered, the city was first created perhaps around 3000 BC
it may be that 1750-1180 BC were times of particular wealth
the exhibition suggests that it was destroyed in 1300 BC by an earthquake and rebuilt
furthermore between 1400-1200BC Mycenean statues were destroyed, the exhibition suggests this may have been a possible time for the War to have taken place

The exhibition compares the onward journeys, the difficult sea journey faced by the survivors to the hardships soliers may need to endure after facing brutal conflicts
Real or not, this is not as important as God’s message, to my mind, the stories seem to tell of God’s guidance perhaps

Aeneas’ flight with his family – the exhibition has a painting showing Aeneas struggling to carry his elderly father Anchises who perhaps importantly clutches the ‘household Gods’, carries with him God’s wisdom perhaps, while his very young son walks in front of him carrying his sword – strangely – the painting by Henry Gibbs ‘Aeneas and his family fleeing burning Troy’ (1654)Aeneas and his family leaving Troy showed how Aeneas was a powerful symbol of duty and virtue for Medieval and Renaissance Europeans – his arrival in Italy was thought to represent Rome’s glorious future
in the painting his wife is held back by a Greek soldier
to my mind this shows Aeneas put the correct values first and was able to save what he could, carrying his elderly father rather than something else perhaps

while the story of Achilles shows the opposite
he believed his story could be foretold instead of trusting God
all the characters who face situations ‘with foreboding’ seem to meet sticky ends
it seems to me
Hector leaving his young family
Helen herself leaving her husband
instead of trusting God
knowing what he will do will be for the best

Odysseus’ story is seen in the exhibition as an example of a soldier facing his demons on returning from battle
certainly it makes more sense that way than as a real story
especially at the end
when having conquered his demons he proceeds to slay all the men who had proposed to his wife as well as all the women who had ‘helped’ them – thereby causing himself more trauma to overcome, if it were real
whereas if the suitors are seen as metaphors for Odysseus struggling with himself, being someone else, unable to be a good husband to his wife, absent in some way, perhaps emotionally, then his metaphorical slaying of those characters and any women who helped would make more sense
Ulysses (the Italian name for Odysseus) & the Sirens (painting by Herbert Draper 1909 Ulysses and the Sirens) is an example – the Sirens represent sexual temptation, Ulysses has to face his own desires and fears
all the examples of the journey are examples of his struggles with the situations he is confronted with – perhaps the loss of his men is symbolic of his own failures – where he is unable to keep to a straight path for instance, when he loses 6 men to Scylla
in the story he is said to spend time with other women, Calypso and Circe in particular
throughout however he trust in God, albeit his Gods, trying to follow the advice given
working through difficulties without knowing the outcome beforehand

the entire story and all associated storylines telling that being guided may be very different from knowing the outcome before it occurs
and if this cannot be done, trust in God still needs to be learned

Two further thoughts occurred to me at the exhibition
– this is not so much about the Divine as how things tend to work unless God decides otherwise

one about Achilles
perhaps obvious –
the exhibition tells how he quarrelled with Agamemnon who had taken Achilles’ Troyan captive woman for himself
Achilles refused to fight and a painting has him almost drawing his sword with Athena restraining him
in the story his comrade then takes his armour and is killed by Hector
Achilles then kills Hector and desecrates his body
all of this speaks to me of a regrettable lack of discipline and respect
which account for Achilles’ heel being his weak spot
this would make easy sense to me if his mother had arranged for Achilles to be in the service of Agamemnon rather than Achilles learning the ‘hard’ way to be respectful and disciplined and earn his place at Agamemnon’s side
and this would be the factual explanation of the dunking in the river which was supposed to leave his heel vulnerable
his failure to abide by Agamemnon’s wishes being a huge mistake I imagine, would lead him to make many further mistakes
God’s way of guiding perhaps
not just Achilles but all around and beyond

the other is Scylla, who in the sculpture is associated with a centaur
to my mind a centenarian
this seems to pop up a lot
recently in the Sleeping Beauty, Aurora has to sleep one hundred years
and I have been thinking about Prometheus having his liver eaten daily and
God reconstituting it every night until a centaur intervenes
to my mind meaning until he was one hundred years old at which time God ceased to make the liver whole again

perhaps just pointing to human lives generally thought to be about 100 years on a good day

Picasso and Paper@ RA

exhibition on 30 January 2020

Two displays attracted my attention:

The Frugal Meal (1904)
this is signature Picasso to my mind
the oversized very thin long hands but particularly the combination of straight lines jarring somehow with the round shapes, the angles in the straight lines, the way the hands form right angles for instance

this is unbelievably one of his first etchings
it presents ‘melancholy and misery’

in his life, in 1901, a catastrophe affected him greatly, the suicide of a friend
his paintings became blue
the people in them became blue
it is as though he could not only feel the cold death on his own skin but saw it everywhere else too
this lasted several years
but this painting to me seems to be God telling him to stop
he had become interested in circus people during this time of grieving
clown faces often paint on a smile even though they are very sad
perhaps not coincidentally he gravitated toward them
in this image he portrays two such circus people
one very dark, very thin, one arm stretched out eerily around the second figure of a woman
she is practically naked and she is looking straight at the viewer
looking at life instead of looking away like the other figure
she is lighter and seems to me to depict someone who still has a lot to offer
the breasts seem to suggest this to my mind
this seems to me the message God was sending to Picasso
that he had a lot to offer

Whether he heard in his own way this guidance or by some other means
Picasso did change around this time
his subjects were now mostly female nudes
and the colours pink and flesh coloured

the other subject I found interesting is Les Demoiselles D’Avignon (1907)
what intrigued me most was a blue shard in the centre
it made me wonder whether this was how Picasso resolved the blue period
ever present but with a different emphasis
the figures Picasso painted around that time have no or very small mouths
indicating to me a lack ability to speak
those mouths, unlikely to have been a feature of reality in Spain and France
the women are worked and re-worked over a long period of time
and feature eventually masks
of different natures
their entire bodies are transformed to look like sheets, bed sheets perhaps, and the sheets look like paper, I guess to Picasso, this would have been more familiar

so that the masks and paper-like bodies are able to express what the voice could not perhaps
the women are perhaps women of a brothel, this seems to be suggested in some of the notes on the sketches leading up to the painting
Picasso then perhaps is able to give a kind of truth back to these women who are valued for their physical beauty and often painted for it, in this he seems to give them back a voice, an ability to express themselves honestly

is this what he was looking for always
perhaps inspired by his friend’s shocking act, he seems to have looked, at least in these two examples, for characters who would have been unable to express themselves truly and tried to give them a voice, in a way that he had been unable to do for his friend

in les Demoiselles D’Avignon the blue shard is still present but it does not take over the picture because Picasso has found a way of dealing with his grief by giving this voice back to people who would otherwise have no way of expressing themselves honestly as perhaps he felt had been the case for his friend

just guessing really, but this is what I found of interest

Paintings etc @ V&A

10 January 2020 visit of
RAPHAEL CARTOONS before they are taken away for refurbishment,
CONSTABLE and TURNER paintings
views walking through the Museum

also a delicious lunch in the bright Member’s Room where in January vegans are given extra treats

walking to the Cartoons
walking through the SOUTH ASIA and ISLAMIC MIDDLE EAST rooms
‘in 16th century ceramic production in Iran was modest scale but when capital moved to Isfahan around 1600, the production of luxury dishes and wall tiles in a wide variety of styles and techniques rapidly increased’
‘these monochrome wares reference the highly esteemed Chinese celadon wares imported in earlier centuries but the bright turquoise gives it away as an Iranian copy

VAM Bottle 17th cent Iran
VAM Dish 17th century Iran

chiselled sandstone screens look like delicate lacework

VAM Agra, India Pink sandstone carved and pierced 19th century

on display a vast array of beautiful rugs and textiles, some intricately woven with jewellery
such extraordinary beauty
made for men, women and children!

these paintings are now considered masterpieces, but at the time they were made they mere sketches, of little value other than as an image for the weavers to copy. The tapestry being the artwork
some colours have faded, in this the colours can be seen better in the reflection in the water
still extraordinary
they are all in the V&A collection online

VAM Raphael cartoons The miraculous draught of fishes Cartoon for tapestry about 1515

East Cowes Castle – The Regatta starting for their moorings
described by John Ruskin as “one of the highest pieces of intellectual art existing”
it was painted for the Royal Yacht Club for the races at the Isle of Wight
Turner’s depiction of the sky always brings to mind the divine
but there also seems to be a ‘head’ facing the lone person in the barge in the foreground on the left which I found intriguing

VAM JMW Turner East Cowes Castle The Regatta (1827-28)

Full scale study for ‘the Hay Wain'(ca. 1821)
‘to establish general balance of composition and colours
this is approximately 160 x 210cm with frame!
the size and skill are phenomenal

VAM John Constable Full Scale Study for The Hay Wain ca. 1821

Another full scale study is by Constable on display is for The Leaping Horse. The actual painting is at the Royal Academy who have a full description on their website including the detail that the “local Suffolk barge horses were specially trained to jump over three feet high barriers erected along the tow path in order to keep the cattle from straying”… though here “the horse is in fact leaping over a crossing which takes the horse and rider from Essex into his native Suffolk.” “John Constable depicts a scene in Suffolk where he spent his ‘careless boyhood’. He claimed that the Suffolk countryside ‘made him a painter'”

VAM John Constable Full scale study for the leaping horse


The Vale of Health painted 1820 -1822, interesting to see Hampstead Heath, busy even then

Hampstead Heath – Branch of Hill Pond (1828) painted after a storm
Hampstead Heath at its best!

Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Ground (1823)
‘one of few commissioned works, the trees framing the Cathedral suggest symbolic level of interpretation unusual for John Constable
painted for his friend John Fisher

The Three Fates – The Triumph of Death
The VAM website describes: The three fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, who spin, draw out and cut the thread of Life, represent Death in this tapestry, as they triumph over the fallen body of Chastity. This is the third subject in Petrarch’s poem The Triumphs. First, Love triumphs; then Love is overcome by Chastity, Chastity by Death, Death by Fame, Fame by Time and Time by Eternity.

VAM The Three Fates 1510-20 The Triumph of Death

The Triumph of Eternity over Time
“This is a fragment from a larger tapestry, from a series based on the poem I Trionfi (The Triumphs), written by the Italian poet Petrach between 1352 and 1374. The poem described a series of allegorical visions, and this scene represented the Triumph of Eternity over Time.

St Jerome and St Gregory accompany the chariot of Eternity. This is the last of the series of Triumphs, and in the complete scene, known from other examples, the chariot rolls over the bodies of all the vanquished: Love, Chastity, Death, Fame, Time. This fragment includes female figures representing two of the Fates, Clotho and Lachesis, crushed beneath the chariot. (In mythology the Fates controlled the span of human life; Clotho was the spinner, Lachesis was the drawer of lots, and Atropos represented the inevitable end to life).”

VAM The Triumph of Eternity over Time

To me it would make more sense to see the victories by Love, Chastity, Death, Fame and Time as circular, with the circle beginning again by Love vanquishing Time and so on, whereas Eternity prevails not by vanquishing but by holding them, within Eternity they can all exist and continue existing. This is why Eternity in a sense vanquishes them all, but it is an interesting story!

All the above and more are on the V&A website

Cars: Accelerating the Modern World @ V&A

This exhibition seems to me a celebration of human imagination and ingenuity
beautifully displayed throughout, making the cleverest use of the space available, this exhibition in The Sainsbury Gallery is full of extraordinary examples of cars, starting with the beautiful E Type Jaguar just before the entrance.

Three examples from the V&A website

my notes from the visit on 29 November 2019: