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Hanging scroll fine art paintings

Hanging scroll fine art paintings are usually called kakemono or kakejiku in Japan. They are mounted or placed on a brocade material so it can be easily rolled up, and store when not in use. Only the vertical scrolls called tatejiku are intended for use in tea ceremonies. Other types like the side scroll or yokojiku, with its width longer than the height, are not meant for tea ceremonies. The purpose of hanging scrolls in a tea ceremony is to implore a spiritual mood, and as a conversation starter for the guests. Tea ceremony hosts take extra effort in creating the tearoom centerpiece, which is often composed of the hanging scroll, flower arrangements and other valuable display items. Thus, it is customary for tea guests to initially give comments on the scroll paintings before the occasion starts.

The main artwork in a hanging scroll can either be calligraphy scriptures or a painting. The calligraphy in hanging scrolls can be divided into three types: BOKUSEKI – these are written by Zen priests from China, and later on by Daitokuji priests in Kyoto. This type of calligraphy is different from other types because it doesn’t give importance on technicality, or the beauty and style of the characters, rather it is meant to showcase the mind of the Zen calligrapher. Buddhist scriptures are only meant to be written by certain people, and people in all walks of life respected the aesthetic values of these writings.

KOHITSU – this type of calligraphy started in the Heian period during the 10th – 13th century up to the Kamakura period, and was mostly written by court nobles, women and emperors. These writings are usually copies of waka poetry and anthologies.

GASAN – tea masters write these and it includes letters or poems, as well as critical views about the tea ceremony.

Painting in hanging scrolls can also be divided into three types:

KARA-E – also called Chinese pictures, this type displays the typical scenes in China. Its counterpart is the Japanese style yamato-e.

SUIBOKU – it is a simplistic type that uses monochrome ink painting technique. It is also popularly known as sumi-e. Paintings are done with black ink and charcoal. Early suiboku artworks were made to copy Chinese originals, but Japanese artists soon become engaged in their own style in portraiture and figure painting.

NANGA – refers to the school of Japanese painting which began in the Edo period. Artists from this school were considered intellectuals or literati. Bunjinga, which means ‘literati painting’, is another word for nanga.


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