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Black robe, white mistArt of the Japanese Buddhist nun Rengetsu
8 September 2007 – 27 January 2008

Introduction | Lotus Moon | Ceramics and sake | Collaboration | Art of tea | Poetry and Buddhism | Publication | Events

Otagaki Rengetsu & Tomioka Tessai In this world' 1867 calligraphy, painting Collection of the National Gallery of Australia Otagaki Rengetsu & Tomioka Tessai 'In this world' hanging scroll [kakemono] 1867 calligraphy, painting Collection of the National Gallery of Australia more detail

Clad in black robe,
I should have no attraction to
the shapes and scents of this world
but how can I keep the precept of detachment
gazing at today’s crimson maple leaves?

(trans. John Stevens)

Black robe white mist: art of the Japanese Buddhist nun Rengetsu displays ceramics, scroll paintings and poem sheets created by Otagaki Rengetsu (1791–1875) and her close collaborators. Rengetsu, whose name evocatively translates as Lotus Moon, was a Japanese Buddhist nun. Her life was one of great suffering and unusual creativity largely borne out of necessity. One of the few successful female artists of her time, Rengetsu was most famous for her poetry and distinctive calligraphy, and also produced delicate scroll paintings and rustic ceramics.

Black robe white mist reveals the beauty of the understated and unconventional, and is significant as the first major exhibition of Rengetsu’s work to be held outside Japan. The contemplative exhibition features works of art drawn mainly from private international collections in Europe, Japan and America, as well as a number of scroll paintings and ceramics from Australian public institutions and the National Gallery’s own collection.

Otagaki Rengetsu 'Fluttering merrily' sake flask [tokkuri] 1870 glazed stoneware, incised calligraphy Museum DKM/Stifung DKM, Duisburg, Germany Otagaki Rengetsu 'Fluttering merrily' sake flask [tokkuri] 1870 glazed stoneware, incised calligraphy Museum DKM/Stifung DKM, Duisburg, Germany more detail

The National Gallery of Australia is most grateful for the generous support of the Japan Foundation and the Australia–Japan Foundation, particularly for enabling the production of a publication to accompany the exhibition. With essays by scholars and art historians, Black robe, white mist: Art of the Japanese Buddhist nun Rengetsu is the first English-language book to focus solely on the art of Rengetsu.

 

Black Robe, white mist was on show at the National Gallery of Australia 8 September 2007 – 27 January 2008