Greeting by the Director, Kimura Shigenobu, on the occasion of the opening of the Somé・Seiryukan
The Somé・Seiryukan had its beginnings in 1991, with the plan to begin purchasing works towards the establishment of a dedicated dye art museum.
I am delighted that this concept has now come to fruition in the form of the Somé・Seiryukan. We boast a unique place in the world as the first gallery specializing in dye art, located in Kyoto, the great capital of dye art throughout the world.
In Japan, we speak of sakizomé and atozomé (pre-weave and post-weave dyeing), but the concept of atozomé did not appear in the West until the nineteenth century. English has the word "dye", meaning sakizomé (pre-weave dyeing), but no word equivalent to atozomé. In recent times dye art has begun to flourish in Western countries as well, under the influence of Japan, as can be seen in the development of the English term "surface design". This expression strikes the Japanese ear strangely, however. After all, dyeing is not about mere surface design — dye is a substance that penetrates to the depths of cloth or paper.
With this in mind, I would like to claim a landmark rôle for the newly-established Somé・Seiryukan. Contemporary art in Japan has a strong tendency to be swayed by overseas trends, but the Somé・Seiryukan aims to counter this by being a focal point for the spread of the dye art of Kyoto and wider Japan to the rest of the world. To this end, we hope to replace the expression "surface design" with the word "somé" as an internationally recognized term.
On the occasion of the opening of the Somé・Seiryukan. By the President of the Seiryukai, Ozawa Junji, President of Daimatsu Co. Ltd.
The name of the Somé・Seiryukan has its origins in the villa retreat "Seiryutei". This villa was originally built in (1912?) on the site of the earlier Ryogon'in, on the edge of the Nanzenji Temple grounds in Kyoto. It was named "Seiryutei" four years later, by the priest Togo Heihachiro when he stayed there on the occasion of the emperor's accession ceremony. Kitamura Sutejiro was the foreman in charge of the initial building. Later, Nomura-tei was added to its east, and on the west the adjoining Tatsumura-tei . Together these buildings were collectively called "Nanzenji Village". Members of the imperial family as well as famous writers and artists from numerous spheres visited over the years. From the late 1920s it became a salon exhibiting Bikosha works, and a focal point for the aspirations of Kyoto's artist craftspeople. The details of this story can be found in Kubota Kinsen's "Record of Seiryutei" (1941), reprinted by his father, Ozawa Etsuji.
This is the history that lies behind the naming of the Somé・Seiryukan, the exhibition of dye works that had its inception in 1991. The idea behind the museum/gallery is the creation of a contemporary dye art exhibition space centering on the works of all Kyoto's dye artists, whose purchase began from that time. Today the Somé・Seiryukan embodies the realization of this early vision.
During the intervening period, we have received the support not only of the artists themselves, but of other museums, NHK, and the various newspaper media organization. I here wish to express my deep thanks to all of the above, and to pray for their continued support of the Somé・Seiryukan.
Hopes for the future of the Somé・Seiryukan, by dye artist Miura Kageo
The eagerly awaited museum/gallery housing the works of contemporary dye artists has now opened. the Somé・Seiryukan, founded by Daimatsu Co. Ltd.'s President Ozawa, contains an impressive collection of dye work panels. Their permanent collection here for all to see will, I believe, do much to enhance the recognition and appreciation of contemporary dye art. Kyoto, as is well known, has long been the centre for Japan's textile industry, but it is not too much to claim that the relatively recent development of creative art in the form of panel works and innovative use of materials is thanks to the dye masters Ogo Tomonosuke and Inagaki Nenjiro. I believe that that the Somé・Seiryukan will be a place that will welcome new artists and provide a valuable venue for communication and exchange. Congratulations on the inauguration of the new Somé・Seiryukan!
BARRIERS TO CULTURAL TRANSLATION IN SOMÉ by Fukumoto Shigeki
Textile art has been called "the quintessential Japanese art form". Yet remarkably few, not only in other countries but even in Japan itself, seem to be aware that the major plastic art form known as somé, the Japanese art of dyeing, has had a unique development in Japan.
There was a period when Europe eagerly absorbed everything it could from the Orient, but there are very few examples of the technique of pattern dyeing known as somé finding a receptive Western audience. India's block printing technique was adopted early, and subsequently developed into modern mechanical fabric printing. Yet if we look elsewhere for examples of experiments in pattern dyeing techniques, we can only really point to the Art Nouveau batik that was fashionable around one hundred years ago, and the "shibori" technique practiced in the West since the 1980s.
In the textile culture of Western countries, somé is considered a form of printed textile. This places such somé techniques as shibori, wax dyeing and yuzen squarely within the realm of the printing technique — a categorization that Japanese at least find hard to accept. Although Western specialists understand that such manual dyeing techniques are not in fact printing, they are at a loss to find any other category in which to place them.
Owing to the fact that fabric has essentially always been unpatterned in the European textile tradition, modern Europe developed almost no form of dye patterning of its own. For the most part, decorative patterning has been a matter of importing and adapting patterns from Asian cultures. Contemporary Western print pattern textiles consist of material for clothing etc., and are strongly associated in people's minds with cheap mass-produced fabrics, or with ethnic-style prints redolent of Asia. Contrast this with Japan, where a colorful variety of pattern dyeing styles have developed down the ages, and where somé has an image of the fashionable, the artistic, and high quality hand-made fabrics.
There is still little general recognition of this glaring difference between the culture of the textile print and that of somé, and this in turn is one of the reasons why international understanding and appreciation of Japan's somé has been so slow to develop. It is to be hoped that the recent establishment in Kyoto of the unique museum and gallery devoted to somé, the "Somé・Seiryukan", will play an important role in overcoming these unfortunate barriers to cultural translation.