Et nous voici plus bas et plus haut que jamais /
そして わたしたち は かつてよりひくい と ころに かつてよりたかいところに
Chiso Gallery, Kyoto 2015

One might find as many Reasons to compare kimonos and contemporary artworks as reasons to
oppose them. On one side, the kimono is a canvas (Karina Bisch, Anne Laure Sacriste), a work
of art to wear (Karina Bisch, Ingrid Luche), an image (Lisa Holzer, Anne Laure Sacriste), and
is valued by its chamanic / psychological effects (Lisa Holzer, Ingrid Luche). On the other side,
it has a strict shape, and is collaboratively produced (designers and, until 20, craftmen).
It traditionally is the result of a continuous tradition (since 1555 as Chiso is concerned), whereas
contemporary artists’specific culture insists in inventing new forms and promoting the tradition
of the new. Instead of solving this contradictory arguments, I have chosen to multiply them in
inviting artists to produce new works, each of them linked to different steps of kimono’s
production process, and to exhibit them with their classical equivalents.

Lisa Holzer and Anne Laure Sacriste produced half scale kimono designs, inkjet printed on silk
– the same way Chiso’s designers draw first on paper. Karina Bisch and Ingrid Luche have been
invited to produce « tamonos », 13 meters long rolls of silk, which are meant to be swen into
kimonos, the same way 20 craftmen turn Chiso’s drawings into reality.
Karina Bisch and Ingrid Luche’s dresses, as well as this newly produced works, are then
exhibited with pieces from Chiso’s archives : 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th and 21rst century kimonos
and works produced by Chiso, for 19th century Japan’s universal exhibition pavilions, or older
pieces. Surprisingly, processes, shapes, forms and patterns, reveal similarities with contemporary
artworks, even before modernity ever emerged in occidental art: interferences of text and images
(Lisa Holzer), figures of ornament / deliquescence and monochrome (Anne Laure Sacriste),
geometrical patterns combined with animal forms, collage (Karina Bisch), reversal of composition
principles (Ingrid Luche). Copy and unicity are undifferentiated as well, just as well, you can’t
tell copy from unique piece of work.
« Nihon-ga », Chiso’s historical core still preserved and developped until now in contemporary
manners, appears more enlarged than ever expected, once one pay attention to Chiso’s incredible
archives. The indistinctness in classical representations, expectations and objects that this
exhibition tries to reach perfectly matched french poet Paul Éluard’s 1951 verse « Et nous voici
plus bas et plus haut que jamais » (We are lower and higher than ever) 1.
It seems more than accurate as a title for this exhibition as it is an excerpt from « Le Phoenix »,
a love poem describing the birth and rise of the mythological bird in a landscape the ekphrasis
of which reminds Nihon-ga themes.

Vincent Romagny

1 I initially discovered this verse written on a folder I found in a japanes flee market a few days
after my arrival in Kyoto, at Villa Kujoyama. Paul Éluard wasn’t quoted, nor the order of the
verses respected. Nontheless, it summarized feelings that gaijin often discover in Japan and
motivates the eagerness I still experience here.