Thursday, December 8, 2005

little monk

The other day I picked up an absolutely wonderful postcard for an exhibition of work by some guy named Gaku Nakagawa. He creates illustrations of Kyoto past and present, among other things, using a computer program. What results is a somewhat cartoonish yet incredibly real interpretation of the people, places, and things in Japanese culture.

Today I followed the map on the back of the postcard and was astonished to find that he is a priest of a small temple on a street I often frequent; however, I have never noticed that there is a temple there. His exhibit this time was of the twelve months in Kyoto: twelve pictures, each a representative event of that month. I particularly admired the fact that he left out no details; the prominant display of power lines suspended over the streets of Higashiyama made me feel like he had captured what Kyoto really looks like. And despite what could be considered ugly details, he managed to convey in his pictures the special something that makes all tourists forget the blights on the traditional landscape of Kyoto and just recall that it was “the most beautiful city in Japan.”

In addition to Kyoto cityscape, he has many illustrations that take traditional Buddhist images or ceremonies and tweak them a little. I am particularly fond of a scene depicting Setsubun, a holiday where people throw beans to drive out the demons. In his version, there are tiny little demons running around causing havoc in a crowd while a laughing Buddha statue stands up from his pedastal and tosses beans from out of the temple’s roof. It is the perfect illustration of how a traditionally serious ceremony can be, and is, lighthearted, even for the Buddha himself.

Unfortunately for you, Nakagawa’s website does not do his work justice. Therefore, you cannot see how great his stuff is. However, his site is called Kobouzu, which means “little monk” in Japanese. And if that doesn’t tempt you to take a look anyway, I don’t know what will.

(Haha…his site is in Japanese. To see his good stuff, go here. Or just wander around selecting random links.)

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