Fusuma in Buddhist temple

Fusuma and Japanese art 


The Path and Order fusuma in CARGO CULT is fictitious. However, the artist Kano Takanobu, the Ryoanji temple roots and its movements through to Hawai'i in the novel, mirrors what we know about the Four Elegant Accomplishments fusuma - which is also covered in the novel from a historical perspective. 

The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art bulletin details the history of the fusuma and the Ryoanji temple. The 60 page booklet explains once they acquired the fusuma, how they carefully restored the Four Elegant Accomplishments and were then able to determine the origin of the treasure. There is still one fusuma missing from the Ryoanji temple - hence Path and Order. 

Art in Japan has a long history as in other parts of the world.

However with the entrenchment of Buddhism in 6th and 7th century Japan, religious painting flourished and was used to adorn numerous temples erected by the aristocracy. As in the West, the religious orders were the custodians of art and literature, reliant on noble class patronage. For centuries, Japanese art was heavily influenced by Chinese culture.

During the 14th century, the development of the great Zen monasteries in Kamakura and Kyoto had a major impact on the visual arts.

By the end of the 14th century, monochrome landscape paintings had found patronage by the ruling Ashikaga family and became the preferred genre among Zen painters, gradually evolving from its Chinese roots to a more Japanese style.

In sharp contrast to the previous Muromachi period, the Azuchi Momoyama period of 1573-1603 was characterized by a grandiose polychrome style, with extensive use of gold and silver foil, and by works on a very large 8 panel fusuma by Kano Eitokuscale. The Kano school (Four Elegant Accomplishments), patronised by Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu and their followers, gained immensely in size and prestige. Kano Eitoku developed a formula for the creation of monumental landscapes on the sliding doors enclosing a room. These huge screens and wall paintings were commissioned to decorate the castles and palaces of the military nobility. This status continued into the subsequent Edo period, as the Tokugawa shogunate continued to promote the works of the Kano school as the officially sanctioned art for the Shogun, daimyo and Imperial court

The division of the art world into competing European styles and traditional indigenous styles marked the pre-war period as Japan strove to Westernise.

During WWII, government controls and censorship meant that only patriotic themes could be expressed. Many artists were recruited into the government propaganda effort, and critical non-emotional review of their works is only just beginning.

Mt Fuji by 19th century western influenced HokusaiThe fine arts of the Edo and pre-war periods (1603-1945) were supported by merchants and urban people. After World War II, painters, calligraphers and printmakers attracted general popularity and flourished in the big cities, particularly Tokyo, and themes became preoccupied with the mechanisms of urban life, reflected in the flickering lights, neon colors, and frenetic pace of their abstractions. All the "isms" of the New York-Paris art world were fervently embraced. After the abstractions of the 1960s, the 1970s saw a return to realism strongly flavored by the "op" and "pop" art movements, embodied in the 1980s in the explosive works of Ushio Shinohara. Many such outstanding avant-garde artists worked both in Japan and abroad, winning international prizes. These artists felt that there was "nothing Japanese" about their works, and indeed they belonged to the international school. By the late 1970s, the search for Japanese qualities and a national style caused many artists to reevaluate their artistic ideology and turn away from what some felt were the empty formulas of the West. Contemporary paintings within the modern idiom began to make conscious use of traditional Japanese art forms, devices, and ideologies. A number of mono-ha artists turned to painting to recapture traditional nuances in spatial arrangements, color harmonies, and lyricism.

Japanese-style (nihonga) painting continues today in a pre-war fashion, updating traditional expressions while retaining their intrinsic character. Some artists within this style still paint on silk or paper with traditional colors and ink, while others used new materials, such as acrylics.

A more detailed history can be found on Wikipedia.