29 & 30/3/2017 Yoshino en Ise

De eerste nacht in de camper was een ramp. We sliepen op een Michi-no-eki. Een rustplaats langs de weg waar je 's nachts mag parkeren. Maar deze bleek 's nachts ook gebruikt te worden door lokale jeugd die graag pronkte met uitgebouwde wagens. Kleine oogskes dus.

Eerste doel met de camper is Ise. De getrouwde rotsen.

Vanuit Nara was dat vorig jaar lastig geweest, zo'n 3 u reizen enkel. Een van de weinige mission close to impossible met openbaar vervoer.

Gelukkig huurder we een camper en is er onderweg tijd voor inhaalwerk. Niet dat het moet voor ons, maar er zijn er 2 die niet te houden zijn op dat vlak.

Dan doen we zelf maar even zot, toch?!?

Onderweg wilde ik langs Mt.Yoshino rijden. Voor de sakura (kersenbloesems), maar als er een nadeel blijkt aan de Flemish dan is het wel de GPS. Bovendien blijken we aan de vroege kant voor de bloesems. Maar dan rijden we door een streek waar voortdurend wordt verwezen naar Tanzan-Jinja Shrine. Het ziet er redelijk belangrijk uit. Hoe dichter we in de buurt komen, hoe belangrijker het lijkt te worden. Maar niet in deze periode. We rijden wel 9 parkings voorbij rondom het schrijn. Allemaal verlaten. Ook die waar we zelf parkeren.

Maar daar laten wij ons niet door afschrikken.

Na het bezoek aan het schrijn maken we ook nog een wandeling naar de tori-gates rondom. Da's al redelijk klimmen.

Kiéro vindt dat geweldig! "Nu heb ik al direct 2 willetjes!" "Oh ja?" "Ja, ik wilde bergbeklimmen en in een Japans bos wandelen en de dierentuin bezoeken. Dus…"

Langs de weg tussen schrijn en parking zijn er meerdere souvenirstandjes. Allemaal dicht op 1 na. Er is ook een verlaten hotel. Of toch, zo lijkt het. Wanneer we dichterbij komen zwaait plots de deur open en worden we enthousiast begroet door een bewaker. Die nodigt ons vriendelijk uit naar binnen, al verstaat hij duidelijk enkel de 3 woorden Japans waarmee ik naar drank- en eetgelegenheid vraag. Het is intussen 15u en we hebben nog niets gegeten vanmiddag. ;-)

Wij dus naar binnen. Schoenen uit. Sloefkes aan. De bewaker haalt er de winkelbediende bij. Die heeft helemaal achterin een souvenirwinkel, helemaal verlaten. Ze neemt de estafette over tot aan de lift. Worden we de lift in gestopt, wordt de 5de verdieping ingedrukt en daar gaan we. Wie weet naar waar?

Naar een even leeg en verlaten restaurant-cafetaria op dat 5de verdiep. Prachtig uitzicht (ook al heeft de serveerster die ons begroet een paar tandjes minder). Binnen is het of de tijd al sinds de jaren 70 stilstaat, de tafels, de stoelen en zelfs het personeel lijken sindsdien niet veranderd.

 

Wanneer we terug bij de camper zijn laat ik het convoyeur-schap over aan onze 2 kastaars. Nu zal het wel goed komen ;-)

We overnachten op een andere Michi-no-eki. Een veel rustiger exemplaar deze keer. Deze manier van reizen is dus te doen om aan voldoende slaap te geraken.

De dag erna bezoeken we de getrouwde rotsen in Ise. Veel kleiner dan je zou verwachten, maar dan nog vind ik ze wel de moeite waard. 

Daarna gaat het richting Kyoto.

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The way of the ink : Alain Bonnefoit

As promised I would publish some stories about my way of the ink and the people I meet alongsinde this path. For this first one I visited Alain Bonnefoit, the French fine art painter that introduced me to the technique.

“Oh oh les artistes!”

Translated: “oh oh artists!” And alsmot directly followed by “Look at your model and how she is getting into the pose!”

The path of the ink that I follow with Alain starts in 2007. At that time I returned to the “Moulin de Perrot” for a painting workshop. That year I finally managed to get myself a spot in the atelier with Alain. It was an extraordinary encounter. Alain is the personification of sharing, the good life and optimism. There’s no room for any other thing. “Vive la vie!” and enjoy sharing.

Today it’s time for a visit to his atelier in Paris for a stroll down his sumi-e path.

Aïkido

It all starts in 1974 when Alain takes a shodo-lesson next to a course in aïkido with Masamichi Noro in Paris. He discovers the power of movement and the art of surpassing a goal by aming behind it. 

Those are things he’d love to incorporate in his painting too.

He’ll meet an art merchant there who will take him along on a trip to Japan to study sumi-e.

Sugiyama-yu

Sumi-e materials

Both men will be received in a temple in the Japanese countryside by Sugiyama-yu. The host will welcome them with a traditional dinner but Alain, still suffering a jetlag, falls asleep at the table. The host will then ask the other to let Alain sleep and at the end of the meal he will ask to put him on a matress. The bond between Master and apprentice is forged.

However, this is not a reason to skip stages! The apprentices will wait for 2 weeks for the course to start. 

After this period Sugiyama-yu will invite them to attend a demonstration in his atelier. In silence and full concentration he will put his felt in place. He unwraps his suzuri (inkstone), then his inkstick. Het places a bowl of water. Gets his fude (brushes) out. When that is in place he fetches a sheet of paper and gently stretches it on the felt. Then het prepares his ink and brush.

45 minutes have passed when he finally puts his brush on the paper for the first time. A few brushstrokes later it’s finished. Stunning.

Apprenticeship

A sketch by Volti in the atelier, next to one of Alain’s paintings

In the days that follow, Alain can finally start practicing himself with the  beautiful materials at hand. But the first strokes are awful. Although in the past he has learned to simplify his drawing (thanks to his spiritual father and teacher Volti) he doubts his ability. He will then fetch common paper to try and speed up learning, as the paper provided by the master is so thin and absorbing that the lines spread out way too much.

Sugiyama-yu will not stop offering Alain the best materials he has and after a while the Frenchman starts to feel and appreciate the quality of wispering papers and very old inks.

The calligraphy-sets he bought at the exits of temples will soon make places for brushes, stones and sticks his teacher gave him. When Alain leaves, his Master will break a 100 year old inkstick to give half of it to his apprentice.

For 10 years Alain will not keep any of his work. It is only in the second half of the 80’s that a first drawing will be stretched and shown in public.

Alain has elaborated his own style. Leaving the grey-tones away quite quickly, only keeping purely black lines full of sense and sensuality.

This scroll on the right was a present from the master. It was re-stretched for the occasion. Exceptional!

When he exhibited in Japan there was a Master saying “without resting the hand, and that for a foreigner!”. He was able to see that Alain hadn’t rested his hand just by looking at the end result. And yes, it is indeed a challenge to work that way. Japanese even consider that it is something that strangers cannot master…

There are many anecdotes that followed through time. As Alain visited Sugiyama-yu for over 30 times. He was introduced to brushmakers, including one that made brushes from mouse whiskers. He got presents like restretched paintings…

My path

Atelier Pavillon de Choiseul, Paris. Stage Alain Bonnefoit 2012

Alain brought sumi-e on my path. And that is more than just drawing or painting. There’s the smell of the inkt, the touch of the brush and the whispering of paper… it’s a whole and touches every sense. There are links and analogies with martial arts on every side! 

Even in daily life I see more analogies every day. Like the day I visited Alain and we shared some iPad techniques… We often let ourselves be so impressed by the value of things that we limit ourselves. We unable ourselves to use and enjoy things fully. It’s like the sumi-e apprentice that is aware of the value of the paper. That thought influences our concentration and often ends up in a very poor end result…

More about Alain Bonnefoit

For those of you who would like to know more about Alain Bonnefoit, you can find him on Facebook.

Next…

As the possibilities of learning with Alain were limited in time I have searched for other teachers. I will be telling you more about one of them in one of the next posts: Marjon de Jong.  

 

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Hoe de Sumi-e tocht begon…

Sumi-e… What’s that? Japanese inkdrawing. How did you start doing that?

Coïncidence doesn’t exist…

I am fascinated by Asia since childhood. That didn’t change after Etienne Geeurickx braught me back to painting in 2003. Although drawing and painting were a piece of me for sure there had been something holding me back. I had even thrown away most of my paint and pencils when I was invited to Etienne’s studio.

I saw a painting on his desk. I couldn’t stop myself from commenting. It actually was an experiment of his. He replied:”Hey, but if you see that then you must be a painter!”.

What followed was a series of encounters and me getting back to painting. After a while I longed for some more technique without entering an academy. So I went to Moulin de Perrot where I met Alain Bonnefoit and his sumi-e inspired paintings. What a coïncidence!

Why Sumi-e?

 

How come it had such an effect on me. Because indeed, it looks simple but it is everything except easy. And good materials are quite hard to find in Europe. But then again you learn and experience so much while practicing that it becomes more than an art form, it’s a tool for personal growth too.

Sumi-e or Suibokuga

Both literally mean “inkdrawing” in their own languages. Japanese and Chinese to be precise. What started in China evolved to a very different result in Japan. Black ink painting was braught there by the Zen-monks in the 14th century. It was exclusively practised in temples for a long time. There are many differences between the 2 of them. In sumi-e for instance you limit the strokes to the bare minimum. In suibokuga there are often too many strokes ;-)

With this blog I hope to inspire people to give it a try. West and East. Including Japanese. They should be aware that a very beautiful part of their culture is getting lost in translation…

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