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A Zen perspective in Zurich

Tôhaku's "Monkeys".

(Rietberg museum, Zurich)

Zurich's Rietberg Museum is staging a special exhibition dedicated to the 16th century Japanese artist, Hasegawa Tôhaku. A highlight is the painter's masterpiece, the "Pine Grove", which is considered to be a Japanese national treasure.

The "Pine Grove" is painted on to a pair of seven metre-long screens, which were illustrated for the Kyoto monastery. The exhibition is a rare opportunity to view the work outside Japan - the museum of Tokyo usually prefers to keep it on Japanese soil.

Tôhaku's "Forest" shows a collection of trees drawn on to two sliding screens in black ink. The shades melt into one another ranging from jet-black silhouettes to misty images of fallen branches in light greys and browns.

The minimalism of the ensemble leaves visitors mesmerised, grabbing their attention as they pass and refusing to let go until it has been contemplated and considered.

Elsewhere in the museum, there are displays of Tôhaku's other pieces including sketch-like illustrations of animals and birds. The most prominent being "Monkeys" which shows a couple of primates with their offspring swinging from the trees with their long, furry arms brushing past birds in their nests.

Throughout the exhibition, Tôhaku is presented as a versatile and gifted artist. Many of the pieces demonstrate his deep appreciation of nature, his fine brushwork and his ability to depict monks, flowers and animals with a minimum of detail, leaving the imagination to fill in the gaps.

The special oriental presentation runs until July 29 at the Rietberg Museum in Zurich.



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