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The Art of Japanese Screen Painting
folding screens from the collection of the
Art Gallery of New South Wales

6 November 2004 to 6 February 2005

Maruyama Okyo (1733-95) <i>Cranes</i> 1700

The folding screen is one of the most distinctive and beautiful forms of Japanese art. This exhibition displays highlights from the Art Gallery of New South Wales' outstanding collection of Japanese screens, dating from the 17th to the 19th century.

Known in Japanese as byobu (literally 'protection from the wind'), screens served many purposes: as room partitions, as settings for special events and as backdrops for dignitaries. They offered large and inviting surfaces for decorative painting and many of the finest Japanese artists worked in the format.

Featured in The Art of Japanese Screen Painting are several examples from the 'Golden Age' of Japanese screen painting, the period from the late 16th to the 17th century, when Japan was unified by a new class of military leaders after a century of civil war. The brash new samurai rulers sought an ostentatious display of their power and wealth and commissioned large numbers of screens for display in their towering castles and grand residences. These screens typically reflected the grandiose tastes of their patrons, with striking ink brushstrokes, vivid colours and brilliant gold leaf backgrounds.

The exhibition also highlights the rich developments in screen painting that came about after the unification of Japan was completed under the Tokugawa shoguns, who ruled from 1615 until 1868. The peace and stability of Tokugawa rule, and the economic prosperity it generated, encouraged painters of various schools to create screens in many different styles - not just for the samurai and aristocratic elites, but for wealthy farmers, artisans and merchants.

Colourful screens depicting dynamic scenes of everyday life in the pleasure quarters of the major cities; detailed depictions of the flora and fauna of the four seasons; and boldly stylised decorative screens in quintessential Japanese style are in included.

Art After Hours Events - Wednesdays 5-9pm

Wednesday 17 November, 6.30pm: Richard Johnson, architect of the new Asian wing at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, will discuss the influence of Japanese architecture on architectural projects he's been involved with, including the Gallery's Asian wing and the Australian mbassy in Tokyo.

Wednesday 24 November, 6.30pm: performance by Riley Lee, shakuhachi master.

The Art of Japanese Screen Painting

On view:6 November 2004 - 6 February 2005
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney
Telephone:(02) 9225 1744 or
recorded information (02) 9225 1790
National Toll Free 1800 679 278
Hours:10am to 5pm, 7 days a week
Art After Hours Wednesday nights until 9pm
Media Information and Interviews:Claire Martin, Press Office
Telephone (02) 9225 1734 or 0414 437 588

IMAGE CREDIT: Maruyama Okyo (1733-95) Cranes 1700. One pair of six fold screens, colour and gold leaf on paper 135 x 357cm. Collection AGNSW.