Tuesday 12 November 2019

Things That Go Bump In The Night

Craft Queen came to visit us from America and went home last week. It had been a full twenty years since she was here last and it felt like it was only yesterday. Dear Reader, where does the time go??

Photo of Egor Zegura sculptures for Sydney's Sculpture by the Sea exhibition 2019
Yes, we too, have frayed a bit at the seams! 
Kore That Awakening & Colossus That Awakens 
Egor Zegura's contributions to Sculpture by the Sea this year

Needless to say, we had plenty to catch up on, so there was ample lounging about done and cups of tea drunk but CQ & The Pipistrellos still fairly packed in some impressive mileage as we marched hither and thither about our fine city, taking in the sights, soaking up the atmosphere & chasing Art.

Photo of Egor Zegura's sculptures on Sydney's Bondi to Bronte cliff walk, 2019 Sculpture by the Sea
A smoky haze on the horizon from bushfires hundreds of kms away
An ominous start to the season, sadly

One doesn't travel to Australia to have a Halloween Holiday, it's not really something we do, (notwithstanding the half-hearted attempts by some to get into the spirit of things). And yet without intending it, a Spooky artistic theme seemed to hang over this Sydney Sojourn.

Photo of Shen Lieyi's sculpture 'Rain, 2017' at Sculpture By The Sea, 2019
Hypnotic Granite Inkiness
Shen Lieyi, Rain, 2017

Alongside the Sculptures by the Sea (peppering the Bondi to Bronte cliff walk with a veritable glad bag of sculptural offerings), we tramped to the White Rabbit Gallery, where shows some rather diverse Chinese contemporary art from Judith Neilson's private collection. The current exhibition, Then, is work from the first ten years of this century and covers everything from joyful and exuberant to grim and shocking and various members of the Pipistrello colony who've seen the exhibition recently have given it Mixed Reviews (move along now, nothing to see, rubbish photos by Pipistrello only).

Photo of birdcages hanging at the White Rabbit Tearoom in Chippendale, Sydney
White Rabbit Tearoom

What holds universal appeal, however, is the Chinese tea and dumpling selection at the Tea House, whereupon CQ & I discovered the nearby Japan Foundation Gallery was having a manga exhibition. So off we trundled to Retro Horror - Supernatural and the Occult in Postwar Japanese Manga. The vintage genga drawings of classic, Japanese horror featured monsters, zombies, and the usual graphic dismembering of innocents who stupidly wander into lonely mansions in isolated places.

Photo of lethal axe genga drawing at the Japan Foundation Sydney exhibition of Retro Horror Manga
There was lots of attendant blood & gore in the exhibition -
So this is all the imagery you need to get the drift

The manga exhibition is held in parallel with the Summer Exhibition at the AGNSW: Japan Supernatural: ghosts, goblins and monsters, 1700s to now. A goodly poke about this latter exhibition was squeezed into a 17,000-step day for CQ's penultimate day in Sydney (those pedometers in our Smart(alec)phones have been rather compulsive viewing lately!).

Photo of the mural by Kentaro Yoshida, Night procession of the hundred demons, 2019, AGNSW
Kentaro Yoshida's mural
Night Procession of the Hundred Demons, 2019
Wreaking havoc on my beloved gallery

Woodblock prints, hand painted scrolls and netsuke from the Edo and Meiji periods depicting popular demons, paranormal beings and shapeshifters rubbed shoulders with their contemporary kith & kin in a very popular exhibition. As a refreshing change, This Correspondent went to the Opening Day and can actually report back the sights and smells from the Summer Exhibition before the paint is even dry!

Photo of detail from Itaya Hiroharu's 'Night procession of the hundred demons, c. 1860', AGNSW
Hand painted scroll detail of some curious haunted objects marauding through Kyoto at night
Itaya Hiroharu's 6 metre fantasy, c. 1860

For the Japanese, they've a suite of legends and characters as familiar to them as, say, those from the Brothers Grimm are to we Occidentals. Many dozens come from a legend of a nightly parade of yōkai, or supernatural beings, who frolic along the streets of Kyoto and vanish with the daylight. While I'm not sure what the pink blob above is supposed to be, my favourite is the instantly recognisable Umbrella. This little fellow is a type of tsukumogami - a haunted household object that comes to life at its 100th year, often seeking revenge upon humans who've been careless with them. A very early eco-message with a bit of a sting, to be sure!

Photo of Ryukei wooden netsuke of a demon sleeping on an umbrella
A tiny reminder to keep good care of your things!
C19th boxwood netsuke of a demon (oni) sleeping on an umbrella

While I sadly appear to have no photos of the many versions of the quaintly-named Hell Courtesan, I do hope you may enjoy some of the rich variety of delights on offer of the Superstitious Kind:

Photo of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi woodblock print 'Vanquishing the badger', 1860
The warrior Kusunoki Tamonmaru vanquishing Old Badger monster -
With his buddy helpfully holding the lantern and conveniently illuminating some yōkai hiding in the shadows
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi woodblock print, 1860

Photo of woodblock print by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 'Snow: Onoe Baikö V as Iwakura Sögen, 1890'
Unlucky in love, a disrobed priest will of course starve himself to death in a forest
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi woodblock print, Snow: Onoe Baikö V as Iwakura Sögen, 1890

Photo of woodblock print by Katsushika Hokusai, The ghost of Oiwa, c1831-32
When a wife haunts her husband, she'll pop up anywhere
Katsushika Hokusai woodblock print, The ghost of Oiwa, c.1831

Photo of Katsushika Hokusai woodblock print, 'The ghost of Kohada Koheiji', c. 1832-32
Master-class for when unsuccessful actors commit suicide and they need to zombie haunt their wives
Katsushika Hokusai woodblock print, The ghost of Kohada Koheiji, c. 1831-32

Hokusai's ghostly woodblock prints then inspired sweetly sentient beings to populate cemeteries as a pleasant change
Chiho Aoshima watercolour and pencil, Tree With Blue Bucket, 2009

Woodblock print by Mizuki Shigeru, '53 stations of the Yōkaidō, Odawara', 2008
Manga artist Mizuki Shigeru adding, ahem, menacing yōkai to the Odawara landscape
Woodblock print from the series, Fifty-three Stations of the Yōkaidō, 2008
Photo of Takashi Murakami's sculpture 'Embodiment of Um', 2014
Umm, a demonic channelling of Josephine Baker?
Takashi Murakami's Embodiment of Um, 2014

Detail from Takashi Murakami mural 'In the land of the dead, stepping on the tail of a rainbow', 2014
Detail from the 25-metre long Takashi Murakami mural
In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, 2014

To end your tour of the exhibition is a still from a mesmerising and strangely beautiful video installation by Fuyuko Matsui, starring a blind Borzoi with an incredible tail, my favourite selection of the Moderns:

Video still from 'Regeneration of a breached thought', 2012 by Fuyuko Matsui
A serene and dignified finish
Video still from Fuyuko Matsui's Regeneration of a breached thought, 2012

We loved having you visit, Craft Queen!

Photo credits: Flying With Hands


  1. Fascinating assortment. Thank you for taking us along!

  2. What an unusual collection of illustrations. I think that the sculptures in you first few photos bare very intriguing.

    Does she come from MY STATE!??
    I woke and read somewhere about the fires and that the smoke in SYDNEY was bad today!!!
    OH DEAR.............stay tucked inside!!!

  4. TofF: There was an unexpected and surprising theme to the artistic offerings when we went out Gallery Hunting!

    Loree: They were quite my favourites on the sculpture walk. So very like decaying Grecian bronzes lifted from a shipwreck.

    Contessa: Yes, Craft Queen does hail from California but is more recently living in the wilds of Oregon where a local cougar and some bears put pay to much carefree dog-walking in the evening in her town - such variety in American life! But no, you are unlikely to see any documentary evidence of her holiday in Sydney about these pages in the form of selfies - although we did practise! ... The fires are awful but the sky is clearer today in the city. It looked quite end-of-days yesterday in the frizzling heat. xx

  5. Some very interesting, and varied, work there. I love Japanese woodblock prints, and have quite a good collection myself.

  6. Cro: Yes, a real liquorice allsorts. Such a wonderful medium to collect, you are lucky.

  7. The Scupture by the Sea website details an amazing exhibition. How amazing it must be to view the pieces IRL, as the kids say.

  8. Bea: Some of the pieces were fantastic and the exhibition is very popular with international contributors these days; it really has grown from something quite small. There's now a bit of a corporate flavour with Suits in walking shoes being led along the cliff walk with a talking head in tow, (having been plied with drinks and nibbles to tease open those purse strings!), alongside the thousands with their cameras, kids and/or dogs. One cheeky scamp cocked his leg on the Bare Tree on the website, he found the artwork so convincing. It did blow an absolute gale so it was a challenge keeping upright at times!

  9. I have a rare talent for bumping into Hell Courtesans when they're just courtesans and heating up. I really never connect with Japanese Art. Everything seems so un-literary except that Borzoi who looks straight out of a Tolstoy novel.
    Tea with you and CQ would be a treat.

  10. GSL: A rare talent? Sounds like you may just be a magnet for capital-T trouble! The Borzoi in motion was magnificent - straight off the steppes. I will admit much ignorance when it comes to Japanese art. Many of the characters are quite recognisable to those better versed so unless you know your kabuki actors through the ages or the key elements of the local lore, it's pretty much all Greek.

  11. Where are those two cool bodies? I can see they are somewhere on the Bondi to Bronte cliff walk, but my beloved grew up in Bondi and never mentioned them.

  12. Hels: Hello and welcome! The Grecian "bronzes" were on the point just beyond Tamarama SLSC, looking back toward beach. They must have been right at the tip as they faced the setting sun so beautifully and there were surfers in my photos that I had to decide what to do with.

  13. Hels: ps: Thank you so very much for putting my blog up on your side bar! I feel extremely honoured to be amongst such illustrious company and am delighted to be able to reciprocate with your own excellent offerings!

  14. Beautiful art .... I love the Sculpture by the Sea.
    My friends son lives in Sydney and has shown horrendous images of the fires .... keep safe. XXXX

  15. Jackie: Thank you, we are on the eastern fringe of the city, close to the coast so not going to be directly affected except by the blanketing smoke. Life in so much of lovely Australia is nerve-wracking in the bushfire season.

  16. The beach sculptures are eerily beautiful. We have some not dissimilar by Anthony Gormley over here.

  17. Aril: Oh, yes, Anthony Gormley. Thanks for the prompting, Aril, I've just had a little diversion over my morning coffee! These works always look fabulous in dramatic locations.


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