Exhibition – The Hidden Code of Animals in Japanese Art – at Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture, Sept 2 – Nov 15, 2008

Settei Carpht Rig

Tsukioka Settei (1710-1787) Carp, 1777, Right part of a pair of hanging scrolls, ink on paper

Fall Exhibition, They Swim, Fly, Wiggle, Walk, or Slither: The Hidden Code of Animals in Japanese Art at The Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture, 15770 Tenth Ave., Hanford, CA 93230, (559) 582-4915, www.ccjac.org The exhibition will run from September 2 through November 15, 2008.

The carp, a widespread freshwater fish originally from Eurasia, is becoming more and more popular with anglers in the U.S. and has long been a traditional part of Christmas Eve dinner throughout Europe.

In Japan, on the other hand, every year on May 5 when Boy’s Festival is celebrated, carp streamers (koi nobori) are hung out to pray for strength and success of the sons.

As koi (the Japanese word for carp) also means love, the carp is one of the emblems of good luck and two carps represent marital happiness. The carp is also known for its perseverance in overcoming obstacles, and is therefore frequently depicted fighting its way up a waterfall.

In East-Asia, a specific animal is assigned to each one of the twelve years of the lunisolar cycle of the Zodiac. Still today, these zodiac animals are used for astrological purposes, all having different personalities and characteristics that are passed on to those born in that year.

The rooster, for example, stands for vigilance and martial spirit, based on the old tradition of cock-fighting and is also associated with fire and sun. People born in this year are therefore believed to be very courageous, brave and wise.

The Japanese fauna is rich with animals like the carp and the rooster that carry symbolic significance. From turtles over peacocks to tigers and even fireflies, the fall exhibition at the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture introduces seventeen different animals and their meanings.

Meanings those are generally not transparent to Westerners as they derive from a distinctive but unfamiliar cultural context. This exhibition presents the animals in four groups, starting with examples from the Zodiac animals.

The aquatic animals like the carp and the large amount of flying animals are the next two groups that are discussed. Both these groups consist of animals that are domestic to Japan.

The fall exhibition concludes with illustrations of “exotic” foreign animals like giraffes that found their way into Japanese art. The exhibition is curated by Andreas Marks, Director/Curator of the Clark Center.

The exhibition will open on Sept. 2 and run through Nov. 15. The gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays between 1 and 5 p.m., and is closed on national holidays. A catalog accompanies this exhibition.

The Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture is located at 15770 Tenth Ave., Hanford, CA 93230, (559) 582-4915, www.ccjac.org

Settei Carp Left

Tsukioka Settei (1710-1787) Carp, 1777, Left part of a pair of hanging scrolls, ink on paper