Large Emakimono-picture scrolls
by Anita Jensen
With these works I desire to challenge and probe established ways of reading images and text, by combining fragments from different cultures and eras in montages familiar from surrealism.
Items from various periods and places merge together in these mixes.
My creative intent is to propose new and startling alternative readings, interpretations and stories pertaining to the fundamental issues of existence.
The presentation is based on traditional Japanese Emaki-mono picture scrolls. In them text and image have been equally important as elements of conveying a story.
This tradition evolved in 10th -15th century Japan.
In my present picture scrolls I combine among others totemic enlarged elements of flora and fauna, as depicted in animistic indigenous cultures, juxtaposed with randomly selected spreads from Finnish and German medical compendiums (published 1939 and 1908 respectively) which depict diligently various diseases.
These elements I have presented for interpretation as equal parts of one aggregate – like a scene in a play.
The scrolls mounted on walls are fully opened. All images are visible simultaneously.
The same works are also presented on low tables in their traditional manner: as scrolls which can be rolled open to the extent desired. The scrolls may also be kept rolled up and hidden in their containers.
To obscure or illuminate the message?
Regarding attributes of the Japanese culture: My work has been influenced by this esthetic forged from combining contrasting elements, a strong symbolism and the custom of ambiguous presentation. I prefer to present ideas more covertly rather than explaining and spelling out their message.
Thus I attempt to offer the viewer more scope for discovery and interpretation.
Furthermore, the Western custom of reading from left to right and the opposite Japanese custom of reading from right to left is either fulfilled or obscured in the traditional way of reading a picture scroll. Only a part of the scroll can be seen or read at a time, by opening the scroll at any chosen or aleatory spot. Thus the direction of viewing and the time used can vary subject to individual choice.
My juxtaposed and alternating elements are not there to describe and explain each other but rather to challenge a familiar process of reading and thus to hopefully open up interesting perspectives.
Human beings, a time and a place in the world?
We all share in our cultural heritage a period of animism when everything in nature was living and had a spirit.
A human being is no different than a stone, a tree or a flower. Consequently no human can reign nature. He/she does attempt to fathom the world by relating to everything around him with respect and by surviving in and living with his surroundings accordingly; by a honed reading of “the great book of nature”.
The medical compendiums from early 20th century which I quote in my works are a small sample from the relatively short period in cultural history where all and everything in nature/humans is categorized and denominated. Thus embraced in an attempt to govern the surrounding habitat. On the pages of the selected books the illustrator has described various diseases with stunning zeal and the text shares this devotion to describing and classifying.
In my picture scrolls I have deliberately blended these two periods of human history to be read here and now.
Translation by Lauri Nykopp
The books which I have used in these works:
for Dream Diary of Madam Pavlova:
Kotilääkärikirja; Terveyttä ja sairautta koskevien asiain aakkosellinen hakemisto.
(Home medicine book: An alphabetic compendium of matters related to health and sickness.)
Published 1939 in Finland.
For Evolution of Emotions:
Handatlanten Lehmans Medizin.
Syphilis und der venerischen Krankheiten.
Grundiss der Pathologie und Therapie der selben von Hofrat Professor Dr.Franz Mracek in Wien.
Mitt81 farbigen Tafeln nach Original-Aquarellen von Maler A.Schmitson.
(Compendium Lehman’s Health.
Syphilis and veneric diseases.
Fundaments of the Pathology and Therapy by the esteemed Councillor, Professor of Medicine Franz Mracek, Vienna.
With 81 color-plates from original aquarells by the Painter A.Schmitson.)
Published 1908 in Germany.
1. The Dream Diary of Madam Pavlova:
3 scrolls opened on the wall and
3 scrolls and 3 containers on a low table
Evolution of Emotions:
One scroll opened on the wall and
1 scroll and 1 container on a low table