JAPANESE BAMBOO BASKETS
Twisted-weave Flower Basket by Iizuka Shokansai
Iizuka Shokansai / 飯塚小玕斎
Twisted-weave (Hineri-gumi) Flower Basket
19 x 28 x 25.5 cm
7.5 x 11 x 10 in
This basket does not have its original box
Original lacquered water container
Iizuka Shokansai was the first son of Iizuka Rokansai (1890-1958), a brilliant artist whose aesthetic vision and powers of concentration defined bamboo art in Tokyo, at least. As Rokansai’s only son, Shokansai must have felt a special burden. Like his father, in his early years Shokansai looked beyond the family vocation, studying painting, and showed promise in that field before returning to the family studio. In bamboo, Shokansai of course had the benefit of immediate and sustained contact with his father's special genius, and was able to explore Rokansai's novel designs from within, and in his own way. Thanks to those efforts, in 1982 Shokansai was designated as National Living Treasure in bamboo art, after Shono Shounsai (1904-1974), the second of only five bamboo artists ever to receive such recognition.
Shokansai created especially inspired mat-plaited works, such as the document box included in the Abbey Collection of Bamboo art now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Less eye-catching, perhaps, but also very compelling, are his organic twisted-weave flower baskets, as seen here. Again, Rokansai provided important examples of this kind, such as the baskets entitled Yadokari (Plate 58 in Iizuka Rokansai: Master of Modern Bamboo Crafts (Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts, 1989) and Chidori (Plate 49 in Masterpieces of Bamboo Art in Tochigi (Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts, 2014).
Such baskets are perhaps inspired by roughly woven folk baskets, though in quality and processing of material, color, texture and form, these should be considered a different species. Their raw look is composed from extremely finely-worked lengths of nemagaridake, the richly-colored, vital bamboo found throughout the Iizuka home territory of Tochigi. Here, two lengths of nemagaridake are finely split so as to feature the thin outer-skin. Placed back-to-back, the color and shine of the bamboo skin remains on the basket's outer surface even as the lengths twist through the basket’s warp. And at the same time that this deeply textured weave advances from the base, the basket wall folds back on itself dramatically before rising again to form an irregular, internal mouth. The basket seems to stand up in spite of itself, as if it were made of distressed cloth or cordage, or as did the great ceramic vats that collapsed in the kiln, revealing wholly unintended, dynamical shapes and patterns prized by collectors ever since.