Contemporary Japanese artist: Buddhism, Shintoism, and Monks in the snow

Contemporary Japanese artist: Buddhism, Shintoism, and Monks in the snow

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Sawako Utsumi is a contemporary Japanese artist who hails from northern Japan. In many of her art pieces, you find religious sentiments. This might be outright, for example, Nichiren in contemplation, or more subtle with Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, or holy monks walking in the snow-covered mountains.

Utsumi often borrows from past Japanese artists to various degrees. For example, Kano Chikanobu (1660-1728) and Kamisaka Sekka (1866-1942). However, you can still feel her individualism irrespective of her own personal landscapes or paying homage. This concerns the angle of spacing, individual traits, changed landscapes, the color scheme, different dimensions, and a more religious feel.

The Fading Spirit of Kano Chikanobu Awakened by Shintoism by Utsumi focuses on the fusion of nature and Shintoism – the natural phenomenon of this faith. Unlike the dogma and “religious righteousness” of the Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism), the Shinto faith sits alongside the mystery of animism and shamanism – even if very different and milder. Therefore, the continuity of nature, the kami, and the respective shrines fuse naturally together.

I comment (art piece above) in a past art piece, “…while the impact of Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Shintoism was more powerful during the lifetime of Chikanobu… Utsumi focuses on the religious angle within her art piece… the significance concerns the indigenous faith of Shintoism that continues to endure in modern Japan, even if in the shadows for many people.”

In many art pieces by Utsumi, you can visualize the influence of Buddhism and Shintoism on the mindset of many Japanese people to a host of different degrees. Hence, the Buddhist monk in the deepest of snow – or the Shinto shrine isolated but remaining in importance in the mountain landscapes – are Utsumi’s way of saying “modernity” without “holding on to the past” is nothing more than shallowness. – Sawako Utsumi and where you can buy her art, postcards, bags, and other products. Also, individuals can contact her for individual requests.


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