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Jeff Spivak and Keiko Shimoda – The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 @ 10:30 am - Thursday, April 30, 2015 @ 4:30 pm

TPB 160 TPB 216

TPB 68bThe Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon’, a 10th Century court memoir, occupies a place of honour in Japanese literature comparable to that of Shakespeare in the English one.  Written by Lady Sei Shonagon, the Pillow Book has no narrative.  Rather, it is a private diary in which she collected her reflections and observations during the years she spent at the Imperial palace in Kyoto as a lady-in-waiting to Empress Teishi.

An acute and thoughtful witness, Sei rested her gaze on the measured flow of life as it unfolded before her; lakes and mountains, men and women, pine trees and birds, love and hate, colours and sounds, temple and houses.  Whatever entered her field of vision was classified with unerring accuracy into things ‘delightful’ or ‘repulsive’ depending on their aesthetic quality.  All expressions of life, from the most mundane to the most exalted, were evaluated on a single double-edged criterion: their inherent beauty and their harmony with the overall order of things.  Thus the images that fill the pages of the Pillow Book come free from the baggage of intellectual interpretation.  Rather, they float in Sei’s consciousness on the small transparent clouds of their emotional resonances, lifted from the chaotic background and transformed into laconic, aphoristic verbal vignettes.  Despite the great distance in time, place and culture, her images are instantly recognised as true and familiar without any additional interpretative effort.  Like all genuine art, they transcend the confines of Sei’s own circumstances and ascend into the realm of the universal.

Hence, the current project took it upon itself to cross the lines of separation and expose 21st Century Britain to the gaze of Sei Shonagon.  Based on Sei’s diary entries, Jeff Spivak, a Scottish fine art photographer currently living in England (www.jeffspivak.com) produced photographs and pigment transfer prints.  Keiko Shimoda, a Japanese calligrapher, currently residing in London (www.j-wcalligraphy.co.uk) brushed Sei’s texts onto the images.  Jeff also mounted and framed each picture by hand.

We are proud to present a small selection of these unique, one-off pieces, hoping to communicate at least some of the timeless grace which, having originated with a Japanese woman watching the mist curl down the mountain slopes a millennium ago, is so desperately missed in our frantic age.

Jeff Spivak and Keiko Shimoda – The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon


Wednesday, April 1, 2015 @ 10:30 am
Thursday, April 30, 2015 @ 4:30 pm
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