Very few artists get the chance to reinvent the medium that they choose, and even fewer are granted the opportunity to tour their pieces to a worldwide audience. Itchiku Kubota’s success and legacy is a testament to persevering in the face of challenges and naysayers. His collection has managed not just to be a part of the Japanese culture and heritage, but also a way to represent the ingenuity of Japan’s artists that is capable of being taken from its homeland all across the globe.
Bringing back the 16th-century tradition
The Tsijigahana is an ancient art form that is now commonly known thanks to Itchiku Kubota’s process of brush painting, resist dyeing, metallic leaf, and artful embroidery which allows for kimonos to have a unique but simple design. With its limited colour palette, it was through the different methods of dyeing and colour patterns that these mesmerising pieces came to life. Unfortunately, the art form’s instructions were lost in time and only their preserved pieces remained. But that didn’t stop Itchiku Kubota from using his knowledge of textile techniques to bring the art form back from the dead.
A grand rediscovery
Since his discovery of the art form in 1947, Kubota worked tirelessly to recreate the patterns and styles of the method. After painfully researching different types of styles and techniques to replicate the process of the tsujigahana, Kubota managed to reinvent the formula instead and brought his own identity as a textile artist to the craft. After three decades, he was able to create contemporary designs on silk fabric which allowed him to present his works in 1977 which became a hit throughout Japan.
Far from home
His works would go on to sail past Asian seas to Europe and received critical acclaim for their unique presentation. Kubota then decided to house his pieces in his namesake museum. After the artist’s passing, his works would face an unprecedented issue regarding finding a home. The kimonos were eventually adopted by the International Chodiev Foundation which allowed Kubota’s pieces to continue being toured to different countries worldwide from Canada to America, and even Moscow.
Kubota’s “Symphony of Light”
The Chodiev collection of Kubota’s kimonos includes his signature collection of “Symphony of Light” which depicts a stellar representation of the night sky and the beauty of the natural environment from different seasons. Unfortunately, only 36 of the intended 80 pieces were made by Kubota before he passed away in 2003. However, the artworks stand as his legacy to the strength of the artist’s spirit and its ability to bring together those who appreciate art and unite them in a common goal.
Kubota’s creations stand at seven feet tall, neatly placed side by side in a horizontal formation to replicate an expansive canvass of many kimonos. Besides the Symphony of Light as a centrepiece, Kubota’s other works follow a similar theme of depicting nature and the seasons through bright melancholic colours expressed differently depending on the season.
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