yohaku 余白
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
A blank, unpainted space. It is considered one of the identifying characteristics of both Chinese and Japanese painting. Blank space is not simply unpainted areas; it is important to the composition of a painting and carries the same "weight" as the painted areas, often serving to set off or balance the painted motifs. As early as the 10c in China, ink landscape painters attempted to capture the spirit of the scenery around them; in their paintings blank space functioned as "spirit" ki 気. During the Northern Song dynasty, literati artists accompanied their paintings with lyrical poems brushed onto the blank space of a painting. Later in the Southern Song period, artists like Ma Yuan (Jp; Ba En 馬遠) and Hsia Kuei (Jp; Ka kei 夏珪) balanced their one-corner compositions with copious amounts of blank space. The Che school of the Ming period and their artistic heirs in Japan, the Kanou school *Kanouha 狩野派, adapted blank space to large painting surfaces. The followers of Chan Buddhism in China, Zen 禅 in Japan, used ink soaringly along with blank space in their paintings to represent the symbolic "nothingness" or mu 無 inherent in their ideology. In screen paintings and handscrolls from the Heian to the Kamakura periods, blank space was used to represent pictorial depth and movement through time. In large-scale paintings from the late Muromachi period through the Edo period, backgrounds of gold-leaf were substituted for blank space, but functioned in generally the same way. Later on in the Edo period, even artists like Maruyama Oukyo 円山応挙 and his followers *Maruyama-Shijouha 円山四条派 who were interested in depicting images close to actual scenes, continued to employ blank space in traditional ways.


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