From Venice to Kyoto: Glass reflections of obi under the moonlight

Shoko Aono

2 December 2018

MOON features the dyeing/weaving of Genbey Yamaguchi, tenth generation owner of the Kyoto obi merchants, Kondaya Genbey, and the work of Laura de Santillana, one of the Venice’s leading artists. As coincidence would have it, this year marks both the 280th anniversary of Kondaya Genbey and the 10th anniversary of Ippodo Gallery New York.

For the theme of this exhibition, Genbey proposed the poem by the twelfth-century poet, Kenreimon-in Ukyo no Daibu, “Many a time have I gazed at the moon”.

Many a time have I gazed at the moon
But never so poignant did it seem
As amid tonight’s star-strewn skies

Poem by Kenreimon-in Ukyō no Daibu (ca. 1157 – ca. 1233),  Japanese noblewoman, Heian Period (794 – 1185)

This poem describes the way in which the poet had always admired the moon, but had never previously realised the deep beauty of the star-strewn skies. It sums up the appreciation of hitherto overlooked splendour. The “multitude” of stars that fill the night sky are highlighted by the “single” moon. Something you are accustomed to looking at suddenly takes on a completely new aspect and moves your heart. I think this stance of concentrating on a single thing holds a special message especially pertinent today, as we are inundated by a flood of information.

Laura and Genbey first met in 2014 during the Laura de Santillana Exhibition at the Tokyo Ippodo Gallery and have since developed a mutual respect and friendship for each other that transcends words. Obi consist of threads taken from the cocoons of the silkworm, or fibres of various plants, that are twisted into threads and woven to create fabric in a time-consuming process. Glass, on the other hand, is created in a moment from minerals that are melted in fire to create different shapes and colours. These two arts seem mutually exclusive, but like the opposing poles of a magnet, these two artists found themselves drawn together.Both artists were born in ancient cities, the blood of traditional artisans flowing through their veins: Laura in Venice and Genbey in Kyoto. Not only have they visited one another’s hometowns, but representing East and West, they have taken this opportunity to hold an unprecedented collaboration.Genbey has not stinted to use valuable old metal foils that had been passed down through the generations, spending several years to create a subtle and profound obi that expresses the moon spreading its light through the darkness. Laura has used Japanese gold and silver leaf to complete her series of flatforms that trap the light inside, creating a fleeting image of the pale moon disappearing in the white sky of morning.For the Ippodo Gallery, which is a novice beginner, as well as for to Kondaya Genbey, which boasts 280 years of history, this exhibition marks a turning point in our histories.

Kondaya Genbey x Laura de Santillana Moon : Tsuki wo koso … 6-8 October 2018 at Kondaya, Muromachi-sanjosagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan


Shoko Aono, Ippodo Gallery (New York), graduated in Philosophy from the University of the Sacred Heart, Tokyo, and then received a Masters degree in Philosophy from Sophia University, Tokyo. In 2006 she started working at Ippodo Gallery, Tokyo and participated in La Biennale des Editeurs de la Decoration at the Carrousel du Louvre, Paris. In 2008 she moved to New York and opened Ippodo Gallery New York, where she is currently working as director. She organises numerous exhibitions and participating in art fairs throughout the USA and Europe, promoting and fostering the finest of contemporary Japanese art crafts outside of Japan.

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