Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Japanese Screens and Aerial Photography

If the screens of The Shrines of Itsukushima and Wakanoura can be thought of as a bird's eye view of that part of Japan, I decided to take a look at what the aerial photography of Japan looks like today. Yann Arthus-Bertrand's website is full of aerial photographs from all over the world, including Japan. All of the images are stunning. However this one of landscape filled with Japan's new agriculture caught my eye for a number of reasons. I could easily see, patterns moving across the frame with each having its own textural qualities. Arthus-Bertrand has this to say about these Greenhouses between Nara and Osaka.

Since the 1960s, Japan has undergone important changes in agriculture, including the development of dairy farming and fruit production, and the increase in industrial production of meat. These changes are reshaping the rural Japanese landscape. Vinyl greenhouses for the intensive farming of fruit and early vegetables have multiplied in the suburban areas of the main cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. They have even extended into such traditional rice-growing areas as the plain of Nara, the island of Honshu, and even Okoyama, to the point of supplanting rice altogether. Traditional crops such as blackberries, tea, wheat, and barley are diminishing to such an extent that Japan must import large quantities of wheat, barley, and silk. Just 30 years ago, Japan was the largest silk exporter in the world.

Japan's dietary changes are affecting not only the people but also the landscape. How would a screen painter paint these scenes? It's easier for me to see an abstractionist take on that project than a painter from the 17th century.

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