Chigiri-e: Japanese Impressionism

The Japanese can hear the words untold and see what is hidden, they are the masters of hint and implication, they feel the enchantment of reticence. Buddhism brought the idea of the constant alternation and instability of the world to Japan. The Japanese have four beauty criteria: sabi, wabi, sibuy and yugen. The first three ideas take their beginning from an ancient Shinto religion. Sabi denotes “out of time”, that means that the beauty shouldn’t carry the signs of its epoch. Wabi is “functionality”. The object of art are to fulfill their practical functions in the everyday life and be comfortable for usage. Sibuy stands for “modesty”. Being pompous and glitzy is considered tasteless and tacky. The last notion, yugen, is borrowed from the Buddhist traditions. That is simplicity and the beauty which is hidden in the depth of the objects and not intended to be on the surface.

Long before the appearance of the French impressionism the Japanese understood and accepts its basic notions:the beauty of everyday routine, simplicity, natural grace and fluidity. The Buddhist notion of yugen lead the Japanese art to admiring the changeability. The Japanese artists managed to see an endless source of beauty in the fragility of the world. On the basis of this esthetics the Japanese developed a new art called Chgiri-e. It’ s the art of creating a collage of a tear-off applique. The name is formed from the word “chigiri”- “to detach” or “to tear off”.

The technique of chigiri-e is based on the tearing the small pieces of the colored handmade paper off and sticking them to the canvas. The result of the process is a two-dimensional picture. The pictures made in this technique look very unusual, as they are something in between the painting and applique.

These collages are made of the special wasi paper, which possesses the wonderful characteristics that make the pictures attractive and unusual. The pictures created in the chigiri-e technique can be compared to the painted ones, apart from the fact that no paints are used in the process of their creation. The contour of the details is applied to the rice paper with a special pencil which can easily be washed off with a water. The artist then tears the paper along the contour. The picture is then drawn on the paperboard fond and the small rice paper details are being stuck to it. Their edges are shaggy due to the texture of the special paper. Many of the Japanese artists make the colored paper themselves using the floral paints, colorful ink or powder pigments.

During the Hei-n epoch the chigiri-e picture were often combined with a calligraphy. The lines were written on the plain white or colored paper. In the eleventh century light blue or yellow paper was popular. The most widespread subjects depicted were water bamboo and grass. The theme of nature is still popular nowadays. The combination of the rice paper texture and its transparency leads to the high color variability.

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