Collaborative exhibition on Japanese art dolls in Salamanca
The Institute celebrated the approach of summer with the opening of Japanese Art Dolls: Muñecas Artísticas de Ohno Hatsuko—an exhibition of exquisite handmade dolls by Ohno Hatsuko (1915-1982) in Salamanca, Spain. The exhibition now on until 23 June 2017 features over 25 dolls beautifully presented in the Empress Michiko Hall, a modern exhibition space fitted inside a 14th-century Spanish building, which forms part of Centro Cultural Hispano-Japonés (Cultural Center for Hispanic-Japanese Relations) at the University of Salamanca.
The exhibition co-organized with the Center and the Sainsbury Institute and supported by the Embassy of Japan in Spain welcomed nearly 100 guests on the opening night on 10 May. Opened by His Excellency Ambassador Mizukami Masahi and Madame Mizukami, the Pro Vice Chancellor of Salamanca University Angeles Serrano and the Director of the Center José Abel Flores also welcomed the visitors. To our delight, many curious and inspired young audience currently studying Japanese at the Centre joined the ceremony and listened attentively to the lecture titled ‘Japanese dolls and the artistic doll movement’which followed the ceremony and delivered by Mrs Mori Mika. She is the owner of the dolls and daughter of Ohno Hatsuko. The opening night ended with a tea ceremony demonstration by Maestra Uchino Sōkun serving matcha tea to each and everyone in the audience.
The doll maker Ohno Hatsuko, born in 1915 to a wealthy family in Japan became inspired by traditional Japanese doll making as Japan was rebuilding itself after the war. In her mid 30s, she took lessons from an esteemed female doll maker, Hori Ryūjo, first rather informally, and perhaps as a hobby, but later in a more serious and professional manner. She was extremely talented so soon developed her own sensual style with female figures being her specialism. Each doll, measuring no more than 30 cm in height, are beautifully crafted with fine details. They are particularly noted for their subtle and elegant expressions of emotions depicted not only by their rich facial expressions but also by the way the body would be slightly tilted or the hands pointing to a certain direction. They may be miniatures; however, they emanate with pure human emotions that range from joy, love and a sadness that leaves many viewers returning their gaze. Many visitors also enjoy the handcrafted kimonos that Ohno fashioned the dolls in. Unlike the typical traditional dolls usually wearing exuberant and often garish garments, Ohno’s dolls are dressed with consideration and aesthetic care. They present a unique glimpse into the rich history of artistic doll making movement that flowered in Japan in the 1960s and 70s.
Ohno exhibited her dolls in different shows from around 1965 until her death in 1982 with much acclaim, but never intended or agreed to sell them. Instead, when she completed a doll or finished exhibiting them, she would carefully wrap them up in washi paper and stored them in a box. When asked why, her reply was always suggestive of her enjoyment in the making, not the desire to flaunt or demonstrate her skills. When she finally did sell her pieces after much demand, she still felt uneasy and is said to have gone back to the purchaser to buy them back. For Ohno, doll making was a personal experience where she could freely reflect and express her emotions and sentiments.
Ohno Hatsuko’s doll exhibitions including this one in Spain are curated by Ohno Hatsuko’s daughter, Mori Mika, who marks Salamanca as the fifteenth exhibition venue. Mori has embarked on promoting Japanese culture through her mother’s dolls since 2004. When the banner was hung outside the Centre’s beautiful medieval façade, Mori sighed saying that she’d wished her mother could have seen the exhibition. When asked if she ever suggested to her mother to exhibit her dolls this broadly around the world while she was alive, Mori smiled and replied that her mother was a very humble woman and would never have dreamnt of exhibiting overseas. Mori’s faith in her mother’s artistic work and her dedication to promoting Japanese culture through her mother’s dolls conveys the love and friendship the two shared as mother and daughter.
Salamanca is a beautiful city with a magnificent cathedral. For those visiting Spain before 23 June, a stop in Salamanca with the doll exhibition in the itinerary is definitely worth a day out.
Japanese Art Dolls: Muñecas artísticas de Ohno Hatsuko
Centro Cultural Hispano-Japonés
Univers idad de Salamanca
Plaza San Boal 11-13
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 10 am to 2 pm, and 6 pm to 9 pm
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