It has been almost one month since visited Tokyo International Art Fair on May 23. There, one painting by the Australian artist, Joanna Blair caught my eyes. The title is “Rainy Reflection”. It is not that this painting is so spectacular or superior to other exhibited works. I reconfirmed how much I am fond of artworks that use ‘rain’ as a subject. After returning from 2 weeks trip to Europe, rainy season has already arrived to Tokyo. We will have this season till mid July for almost one month and it is not particularly a favorite seasons for anybody, but ‘Rain’ seems to be a favorite subject appeared in the world of art and literature in Japan. We have got a variety of words that describe different kind of rains in the time, in the season, by the length, or by the amount. The rain is also often used as a metaphor to describe our emotions and situations. Here, I would like to introduce some of art pieces that used rain as a motif. Hiroshige‘s Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi bridge and Atake (大はしあたけの夕立) is perhaps one of the most well known Japanese art piece featuring rain. This is s a woodblock print in the ukiyo-e genre and was published in 1857 as part of the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. The print shows a small part of the wooden Ōhashi bridge crossing the Sumida River. Sudden showers of rain are depicted by using a large number of thin dark parallel lines in two direction. Six people are crossing the bridge sheltering under hats or umbrellas from the sudden shower of rain. It seems to hear the sound of intense rainfall. Rain is a typical theme of ukiyo-e. There are many other rain theme paintings as Hiroshige’s rain paintings. About 30 years after Hiroshima passed away, his works were introduced to the western world. The Paris Universal Exposition in 1867 was really the milestone event that unique Japanese art was discovered and widely recognized outside Japan. Hiroshige’s style to describe rain gave a great impact to European artists. Until then, there was no such techniques to describe rain by using lines. Van Gogh’s copy work, “Japonaiserie:pont sous la pluie” in 1887 is well known example.
via Van Gogh Museum
We can also observe the influence of the technique in the Daum brother‘s work. They used many parallel thin lines to describe rain.
Rain is also appeared as a favourite theme in Henri Cartier-Bresson, renowned French photographer’s work. He describes a slice of rainy day by effectively using a puddle and the reflection of light on a puddle and watery ground.
Rain could be scary. Even within doors, the loud sounds of water drops and thunders give us a visual cue of heavy rainy day. ‘Storm House’ is 5-10 minutes light and water installation done by the artist duo Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller by using a small traditional Japanese house on Teshima Island.
“The piece begins as the storm approaches, with no water hitting the windows, then proceeds to the incredibly loud, floor shaking climax. As the storm dissipates the sound of someone moving and coughing in the next room is heard and then the piece starts again.”
Rain could be annoying. I am not particularly fond of rainy day. But entertaining mind may be a good way out.
Let’s be blessed by rain!