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Modernizing the Japanese Garden

Thursday, May 19, 2005 Posted: 08:58 AM JST

Kyoto based photographer and designer Markuz Wernli has collaborated with Christian Tschumi on a wonderful book on Mirei Shigemori's gardens: Mirei Shigemori: Modernizing the Japanese Garden.

Markuz Wernli's beautiful photographs in this book provide a view of beautiful texture and detailing that is hardly visible to the ordinary garden visitor. I asked Wernli to talk a little bit about his book.

How did you get involved in this publication?

"In the three years that I have been living in Kyoto, I realized that Japanese arts are so entrenched in their tradition, that they mostly lost their relation to present society. Many festivals and artistic facilities in Kyoto appear to be stuck and unrelated to what's going on in people's lives.

One day I came across Mirei Shigemori's gardens which demonstrate how a master can have a deep inside knowledge and at the same time incorporate modern and foreign influences. Shigemori had the courage to experiment with motives from European painters like Matisse and Kandinsky, as well as new materials like concrete.

I started to document Shigemori's garden, because they set a sample for challenging and renewing the traditional arts. As a photographer I tried to formulate an appropriate language in my images by breaking with all conventions of landscape photography."

What makes this book so special, do you think?

"This book's imagery will encourage the reader to take a deeper look at the landscapes surrounding us, manmade or not. The experience of a garden is a very tactile, immediate one and my photographs reflect that. In collaboration with garden author Christian Tschumi I found Stone Bridge Press in Berkeley which has respected editions on Japanese gardens.

Only three people with one clear vision and passionate expertise realized this book. This allowed me as a photographer and designer to realize a strong coherence among layout, illustrations and images. The book is therefore not only relevant to garden lovers, but to planners, designers and creative thinkers in general."

Mirei Shigemori (1896-1975) began his study of the tea ceremony and ikebana (the Japanese art of flower arranging) as a teenager. He pursued a career in fine arts and went on to revitalize the practice of Japanese gardening. Shigemori's approach combined "the garden's religious roots" with "the consciousness of his own place in history" to create a "compelling manifesto for continuous cultural renewal."

Mirei Shigemori: Modernizing the Japanese Garden features notes, a time line, a list of contacts, maps of locations and a glossary. They are helpful starting points and inspire further study.

Mirei Shigemori: Modernizing the Japanese Garden
Wernli, Markuz (Photographer)
Tschumi, Christian (Author)
ISBN: 1880656949, Paperback , list price $18.95 (128 pages)
Stone Bridge Press, Berkeley

Keywords: book_news

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