Throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Japan has been admired globally for unique artistic traditions and sophisticated visual design.
These distinctive qualities can be attributed to Japan’s isolated island status and associations with nature worship, known as ‘Shinto’, from ancient times. Shinto – literally ‘Way of the Gods’ – is a form of animism where gods pervade all aspects of life and natural phenomena, including the wind, sun, moon, water, mountains and trees. Shinto underlies the deep appreciation of beauty in nature and the changing of seasons at the heart of Japanese customs and lifestyle.
This exhibition, drawn from the NGV Collection, brings together works that express a human desire to create with a close spiritual affiliation with nature. Spanning over four thousand years, from Neolithic times to the twenty-first century, it celebrates the wabi-sabi aesthetic of rustic earthenware ceramics, and encompasses Buddhist sculpture and calligraphy, minimalist medieval furniture, the appreciation of seasonal flowers, the refined motifs of porcelain ware, bamboo weaving to create contemporary sculptural forms, and the work of some of Japan’s leading contemporary fashion and graphic designers.