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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Laylah Ali, Genji Monogatari

Genji Monogatari, about 1120, originally uploaded by Bromirski.
Missed most of last Friday's Art:21, after Susan Rothenberg I fell asleep (not necessarily a reflection on Susan, I was just wiped out). Who else was profiled? I hope I didn't miss Arturo.
I'm still thinking about Laylah Ali from the week before, very appreciative of her oddness and intensity. The extremely careful and subtle deliberation of her figure's colors, expressions, and gestures has me considering her work in relation to one of my very favorite artworks ever, the Genji Monogatari.
Genji Monogatari, or the tale/story of Genji, is a work of literature written in the early 11th century by a Japanese noblewoman named Murasaki Shikibu, but when I refer to the Genji Monogatari I am thinking specifically of the illustrated scroll, or e-maki, created around 1120. The "novel" is a classic and has been illustrated many many times but the oldest surviving version from 1120 is regarded as the #1 BEST and is a national treasure.
I haven't read the novel but I know the gist of the story from studying the art. It is a soap opera, the entertaining story of a playboy prince. I'm pretty sure that the image above is a scene of Genji confessing to his father that he has been having an affair with his step-mother and that she is now pregnant. It looks like a peaceful scene but this was made during the extremely ritualized Heian Period and every movement, every color, every pattern, every gesture and the slightest expression were charged with meaning. The scene pictured above would have been riveting to it's original viewers, full of conflict and tension.
Laylah Ali clipping newspaper photos, studying - for example - how different people held up their right hands when swearing an oath in court (fingers spread or together, thumb tucked in or not) reminded me of these Heian era illustrations.

4 comments:

eva said...

I have read the Genji several times and there are at least 3 different translations out. By far the oldest one, the one by Arthur Waley is the best. It is well worth the read. The poetry alone will keep you going.

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