SANTA FE, NM.- TAI Modern
has been the worlds premier gallery for contemporary Japanese bamboo art for over 20 years. The gallery represents more than 40 bamboo artists, as well as select American artists working in a variety of media.
Honma Hideakis uncle, the pioneering bamboo artist Honma Kazuaki, had no children, so he adopted Hideaki (who loved to draw and work with his hands) as his son, student, and heir to the family's bamboo business. The family business was booming at the time, so Honma did not go through a traditional apprenticeship but was immediately put to work harvesting bamboo and preparing material for older employees. Honma now considers himself fortunate not to have undergone formal training before he started creating works of his own because it freed him from the traditional thinking process around how bamboo art is supposed to be made.
Honmas process involves (1) sketching out ideas; (2) testing out his ideas using maquettes; (3) making an armature out of wood; (4) constructing the basic structure of the sculpture out of bent bamboo; and (5) filling in this frame with woven bamboo to complete the piece. This process may seem logical to the Western audience, but it is rather unique among bamboo artists in Japan.
Honmas art is a part of the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Asian Art Museum. He has won two prestigious Tokusen Awards, in 2014 and in 2018, making him one of the top-ranked bamboo artists living in Japan.
Japanese Bamboo Art
Bamboo is an amazing material. It combines lightness, strength, and flexibility with natural beauty. In Japan, it is used to make buildings, rope, furniture, arrows, fishing rods, farming tools, kitchen implements, musical instruments, cloth, paper, boxes and, of course, art.
When it comes to art, bamboo is an incredibly expressive but demanding medium. It usually takes an artist five to ten years to acquire the basic skills and techniques harvesting, processing, splitting, dyeing, weaving, bending, knotting, etc. - of working with bamboo. Mastery is a life-long process.
People began making baskets out of bamboo in Japan over two thousand years ago; however, it was the flowering of tea ceremony in Japanese culture from the late 15th to the early 20th century that led to a demand for finely made bamboo tea articles and elaborate Chinese-style flower arranging vessels. A pool of talented bamboo artisans developed to meet this demand. The mid-19th century saw the first appearance of ambitious, artist-signed baskets and the development of an original Japanese style.
These early bamboo artists excelled at both traditional formal Chinese-style baskets and the wabi-sabi Japanese aesthetic, and they set technical and philosophical standards for all of Japans later bamboo artists.
In the 1920s, the modernization of the Japanese flower basket began. The next few decades saw the development of radical new ideas about what a bamboo basket could look like. In 1956, two artists, working separately, made the first completely sculptural bamboo works in Japanese history. Other artists soon followed this example. Todays bamboo artists believe individual creative vision, whether expressed through a sculpture or a functional vessel, is as important as technical mastery.