Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

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Wall #4
  • Tanaka Ryōhei
    born 1933
    born: Takatsuki City, Osaka prefecture, Japan ; active: Japan, United States
  • Wall #4, 1984, Showa period (1926–1989)
  • Where object was made: Japan
  • etching
  • Sheet/Paper Dimensions: 467 x 346 mm
    Sheet/Paper Dimensions: 18 3/8 x 13 5/8 in
    Mat Dimensions: 25 x 20 in
  • Museum purchase: Lucy Shaw Schultz Fund
  • Not on display
  • 1990.0059
Label Text

Exhibition Label:
"Japan Re-imagined/Post-war Art," Mar-2008, Kris Ercums
Haunting images of depopulated, ruined villages dominant Tanaka’s oeuvre. Throughout his career, he has chronicled the vanishing remains of rural Japanese life, rendering decayed thatched roofs and crumbling walls with astounding detail that tinges each etching with a hushed sense of longing and a disquieted vision of loss.

Exhibition Label:
"Selections for the Summer," Jun-2006, Mary Dusenbury
Nostalgia and a Narrow Road to the Deep Interior: Tanaka Ryōhei

Tanaka Ryōhei’s work focuses on Japan’s vanishing rural architecture and scenery. Using the Western printing techniques of copperplate etching and aquatint and Western notions of perspective, Tanaka’s images bring a modern Japanese man’s eye to a rural landscape that is as remote from him and his contemporaries as it is from his many Western admirers. His lovely, meticulously rendered images of thatched farmhouses and village fields evoke nostalgia and even a brief yearning for what Japanese and Westerners alike can imagine as a simple and beautiful past. Tanaka’s images are devoid of people and of any evidence of contemporary life.

A second recurring theme in Tanaka’s work is that of a narrow road always curving before one can see what lies ahead. It reminds the viewer of the 17th-century poet Bashō’s famous travel diary, Oku no hosomichi, or Narrow Road to the Deep Interior, which can be taken as a road leading to the remote north of Japan (where the poet was traveling) or to an interior of the self.

What lies around the curve of the road in our lives, and what part does memory play in our life journeys?