Thursday, May 17, 2018

Itchiku Kubuta : Symphony of Light

chou / the first blush of winter (detail) by Itchiku Kubuta 
I went to see the Itchiku Kubota exhibition at the textile museum last weekend, not prepared for the awe I was to experience.
Symphony of Light: Seasons by Itchiku Kubuta
Ryou/Certitude 1986,  Kuo / Change 1986 and Hin / Nostalgia 1987
tie-dyeing, ink painting, embroidery on silk crepe
Itchiku Kubuta (1917 - 2003) apprenticed with a dyer who specialised in hand painting and resist dyeing when he was 14 years old and established his own studio 5 years later (age 19).  The following year, while visiting a museum, he saw a fragment of Tsujigahana dyed kimono silk from the Maromachi period (16th century) that inspired him for the rest of his life.
Symphony of Light: Seasons
Hou / Late autumn melencholy 1987,  Kou / Twixt autumn and winter 1989, Ei / Unexpected Snow 1989
 and Sei / blue Trace of hope in sudden snow  1989,
tie dyeing, ink painting, embroidery on silk crepe
"it carried a quality that was plaintive and mysterious.  I continued to look at that small piece of fabric, as if placed under a spell, for over three hours"  Itchiku Kubata

He devoted himself to reviving this ancient dyeing method, and eventually succeeded in 1981.   
Symphony of Light by itchiku Kubuta
Chou / The  First Blush of Winter 1986 and Kan / Never Ending Snowfall
tie-dyeing, ink painting, embroidery on silk crepe
He wanted to create panoramic visions of the subtle but swift passage of time and nature through the seasons and decided to create 80 kimonos that would connect to each other, sleeve to sleeve as a continuous canvas.

He was 63 years old when he began.

Itchiku Kubuta completed twenty-nine kimono for autumn and winter and five for the universe before he died at 86.  An additional two for the universe were created by his assistants posthumously.
Symphony of Light: The Universe  by Itchiku Kubuta 
It's his vision that I find awesome and humbling.
He started his larger than life project with no hesitation about his own if he truly felt that he had all the time in the world. 

His canvas references the human form in the kimono shapes, connecting to each other, arm to arm.

Each is made one at a time over a lengthy period of time....going through multiple laborious steps.

It is grand.  They are sublime.

There is a museum in Japan devoted to this man.

The website shows the Symphony of Light kimonos in a continuous line.  click here.
Mount Fuji Against Golden Layers of Clouds  2000 by Itchiku Kubuta
tie-dyeing, ink painting, embroidery on silk crepe
Kubota also created individual kimono.
Three of his Mount Fuji kimonos were on display.
detail of Ohn by Itchiku Kubuta
Frank Stella said:
"I don't like to say I have given my life to art.
 I prefer to say that art has given me my life"


  1. Even online they're amazing. Remind me of generations as they hang together.

  2. Thank you so much for this. I spent part of my childhood in Japan, and moving through the link you provided brought back so many wonderful memories of where my love of silk, damask and brocade came from. Itchiku Kubuta was so generous to devote his life to his art.

  3. I miss Toronto. Thank you for sharing this exhibit in such detail. Knowing the's almost like being there. This work is more than inspiring...

  4. I know I know I know : have seen them twice and they are
    sooooooooooo A-MA-ZING !!!!!!!!!!!!!
    (when you see all these tiny ripples made by the shibori
    stitches .... and the pattern moving over all these panels !)

  5. Speechless appreciation.

  6. I have seen these in the Kubota Museum in Kawaguchiko, Japan. The works are stunning. The museum itself is set in lovely gardens which only adds to the experience. If the weather is clear you have an excellent view of Mt Fuji from the museum as well.
    Kawaguchiko is a day trip from Tokyo and is one of the popular places to see Mt Fuji. You can catch a little tourist bus at the station that runs around the lake and stops at the Museum or you could easily take a taxi from the station.

  7. They are stunning to view on the inter net so must be breath taking to see them in real life....
    Masters of art don't think about mortality ,they only think about creation.

  8. No wonder you were in awe, Judy! As Mo Crow already said, they are exquisite. And that quote you ended with perfectly describes my relationship with art. Much love, dear appreciater and creator of beauty.

  9. These are incredible. Thank you.

  10. Judy

    I was in Toronto this past week but unfortunately missed this exhibit. Too late. Thanks for the online images. Japanese dyeing Techniques continue to inspire

    Ingrid Lincoln

  11. I saw a few pictures of Itchiku Kubuta's kimonos in Smithsonian magazine many years ago and was awestruck. Thank you for bringing him back into my mind again.

  12. oh my goodness, how wonderful to have seen them for real. I have been astounded by his work since I discovered it a couple of years ago. Thank you so much for sharing


Thank you for taking the time to connect. Much appreciated.xx