Bamboo flower vase by Shono Shounsai
Bamboo Flower Vase
32 x 9 x 8 cm
12.6 x 3.5 x 3.1 in
Original box signed and sealed by Shounsai
For his remarkable achievements as a bamboo artist, Shono Shounsai is relatively under-represented in principal collections of bamboo art. The Cotsen Collection in the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, the most significant international collection of bamboo art, holds only three works by Shounsai. Only two of those are unique works, one of which is Shounsai's great masterpiece Shimmering of Heated Air. The Abbey Collection of Bamboo Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York includes four pieces; again only two are unique works. At last, the Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo holds ten of his works, a considerable number, but only half are unique pieces. This from the first National Living Treasure in bamboo art!
In this circumstance, it should come as no surprise that there is very little written on Shounsai in English. It is almost impossible for an international audience to gain some perspective on the life and work of this key figure in the field. In Japanese, we are aware of only two substantial monographs on Shounsai; these provide the best record of his artistic endeavors, indicating something of his aesthetic ambitions and evolution.
Shounsai's Shimmering of Heated Air is so overwhelming, it may obscure the artist's lifelong link to traditional bamboo basketry in Kyushu. The pure color and texture of natural bamboo is often a principal feature in Kyushu bamboo crafts, and the bamboo of Shounsai's works is inevitably gorgeous. With it Shounsai made, or remade, many traditional Kyushu bamboo implements and flower baskets, and these works are always of subtle quality.
The same can be said of his set of bamboo flower vases, seen here in the form of a hanging wall vase. All were made of single, un-split lengths of perfectly cured madake, an unforgiving material Shounsai cuts with singular precision. The insides of these tubes are finely lacquered, a rattan handle is bound simply to the open section, and the vase is ready to make its offering.