|Akira Ito, Self Portrait as Painter Among Cherry Blossoms|
Here's the beginning of the excerpt:
AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT, I happen to be passing through Tokyo during one of my friend Ito Akira’s very infrequent art exhibitions. On the blue walls in the low and quiet lighting of the small gallery hang Ito’s many paintings illustrating the life of a Japanese man of letters living in the mountains, and the forest plants and creatures in the circle of life around him there. On several tables are copies of his richly colored children’s books, a single edition book of watercolor paintings of wildfl owers from Shikoku, and his small, hand-bound volume explaining how theoretical astrophysics and yoga practice (as well as classical Chinese philosophy) can, together, explain the working of all energy in the universe, from the quantum level to the big bang. But of all the quite different works at the exhibition, the most moving for me is the smallest: a hand-sewn volume that fi ts into a box about the size of two packs of cards. The book, a loving documentation of traditional Nepali papermaking processes, dis plays Ito’s affection for the ways of life of traditional rural peoples. “I made this,” he says to me, in his halting, gentle voice, “as a way to try to support their way of life at the time that industrially produced paper was coming into Nepal from factories in other parts of the world. I had been doing research on handcrafts in the Himalayas in the 1970s, and I devised this project as a way to introduce Nepali methods to Japanese craftspeople, artists, and collectors.” By gathering funds from “sub scribers” in Japan, Ito hired Nepali artisans to make the paper, carve the woodblocks, produce the prints page by page, and sew the pages together to produce a boxed edition of one hundred and eight copies. The paper itself is baby soft, and so pleasing to the touch that I feel myself relaxing just holding it in my hands. In the gentle images on each page, I fi nd women walking mountain pathways with straw baskets on their backs, while the trees, the river, the yaks, the clouds, and even the rocks of the mountain themselves vibrate with Ito’s energetic line.
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