East Asia on wallpaper
In our Eastern Simplicity collection, our Scandinavian style meets the East Asian tradition. While developing this collection, we collaborated with Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg to create the wallpaper Hokusai. We interviewed Maria Forneheim, about its East Asian collection.
Tell us about your work around your East Asian collection!
– Röhsska Museum has a wide range of Japanese and Chinese crafts, including an extensive collection of Japanese woodblock prints. Throughout the twentieth century the East Asian art tradition has been an important source of inspiration for many Swedish artists and designers. In the exhibition Inspiration East Asia, which opened at Röhsska Museum in 2019, we have displayed old Japanese and Chinese works from our collection alongside contemporary Swedish design, to show how this exchange has looked over the past 100 years and where inspiration has been drawn. The exhibition aims to pique curiosity and show how older works can inspire even today.
– For the opening of Inspiration East Asia in 2019, the Museum also developed its own varieties of green and black tea, inspired by a poem by Emperor Qianlong that praises the tea of the three Magi, and which appears on a cup in the collection. In spring 2020 the museum shop expanded its assortment with a number of products inspired by the East Asian collection. This included fake tattoos featuring motifs from the collections, chocolates, pastille cases with Japanese and Chinese motifs, postcards and tea-towels with Katagami patterns, which are Japanese print stencils for textiles. We are continuing to build on these products from the museum’s holdings, so more will come in time. These will also be supplemented with books and products linked to Chinese and Japanese crafts.
What is Japanese woodblock printing, for those who don’t know?
– Japanese woodblock printing is called ukiyo-e, which means the transitory or floating world. It was an artistic movement that was popular in Japan under the Tokugawa shogunate of 1603–1867. The images were painted by an artist and then printed by a printer using woodblocks. Each design was printed in around 1,000 sheets, and the images were affordable and accessible. They depicted everyday life in Japan. Often these were portraits of courtesans, geishas, actors or famous sumo wrestlers. Images of landscapes were very popular, and motifs of Japanese festivals and celebrations were common. At the end of the 1800s, artists and art collectors in Europe started collecting the Japanese woodblocks, and many artists, including Carl Larsson, were inspired by the Japanese woodblock aesthetic in their paintings. Which is why we have large collections of Japanese woodblock prints at museums in Europe.
The Röhsska Museum is temporarily closed due to the current pandemic.
Our Eastern Simplicity collection features a wallpaper of a view of Mount Fuji by Hokusai. Can you tell us a little about the design?
– This woodblock print is part of a series of 36 views of Mount Fuji and depicts the Tama river in the Musashi province, with Mount Fuji in the background. Mount Fuji is a Japanese volcano. It is Japan’s highest mountain and is often considered a national symbol. Fuji has important cultural and religious significance, and is a popular motif in Japanese art.
– The artist Katsushika Hokusai was one of the most influential woodblock printmakers of the Edo period in the 1800s. He is best known as a landscape painter and for his series of different views of Mount Fuji, viewed from a number of locations and in different seasons and weather conditions. The mountain is a popular destination and pilgrimage site, says Maria Forneheim, head of exhibitions and collections at Röhsska Museum.
Hokusai, print by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai.
Balancing beautiful traditions of Asian art with stylish Scandinavian wallpaper craftmanship, Eastern Simplicity has a timeless air of always being there.
Global Living represents a fusion of our own Scandinavian style with all the colour and imaginative design of international cultures.