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The Japanese Sword Is Art? The Japanese Sword Is Art.


Guest Rayhan
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Hi Les

In  the article Ray mentions in the original post I quote a very well respected collector, sadly no longer with us. He made three disitnctions

1. Art

2. fine Art

3. High Art

While not following the general definition you mention (which BTW I think is very succinct and accurate) I think the way these are defined can help when looking at different levels of swords. I wont repeat it all here but if interested you might take a look at the article and see if and how it fits in to your thinking.

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This is going to sound wierd but for me no. This is an incredible thing, it is unbelievably rare (ubu, long mei and the rest) and in great condition. There is no doubt that it is "fine art" It demonstrates all the features you would hope to see in that school and period. What it lacks for me is that extra step that takes it beyond the fine art category. This of course comes down to personal preference and as has often been pointed out Bizen isn't particularly mine. However I think much of the pricing and high level papers on this may be attributed to it's great rarity and condition rather than exceptional "stand out" quality when compared to other Osafune smiths of the period.

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Guest Rayhan

In the Compton book of Masterpieces the Bizen smiths really stand out and i can see where you're coming from when we look at some of the examples there too, in comparison. Thanks for clarifying Paul :)

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Interesting blade, I like Hatakeda school. You will notice that there are two sori, the one at the blade level and the nakago one. This is a slender blade, notice the width at the hamachi and the kissaki (1,72cm) leading to a ko kissaki. Rather a Kodachi than a Tachi.

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This is going to sound wierd but for me no. This is an incredible thing, it is unbelievably rare (ubu, long mei and the rest) and in great condition. There is no doubt that it is "fine art" It demonstrates all the features you would hope to see in that school and period. What it lacks for me is that extra step that takes it beyond the fine art category. This of course comes down to personal preference and as has often been pointed out Bizen isn't particularly mine. However I think much of the pricing and high level papers on this may be attributed to it's great rarity and condition rather than exceptional "stand out" quality when compared to other Osafune smiths of the period.

I am not in love with Bizen works either, so that makes us insane I guess!

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A finely made shotgun, an effective arbalest, skillful physical feats, an evocative turn of phrase; these are all an high art. To think the craft of making a sword that exhibits the penultimate, if not ultimate, in function as well as beauty in form, is not an high art is unjust. Vulcan at his forge is the god of functional art and the beauty exists in the function, the way it works, as much as in the pleasant appearances. John

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Art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. 

 

If someone doesn't like a Brancusi sculpture they will not perceive it as art, so for them it will never be, even though many might disagree. Art is not a democracy. If 200 people say the Brancusi is art then it is for them. But for 20 or 2000 it might not be.

 

I'm using sculpture because I believe this is the fine art channel that nihonto are closest to. Equally some nihonto will excel as an example of their type and others will only ever be 'so so'. Craftsmanship and design (form follows function) are also key to great nihonto - craftsmanship is also key to art. For example, Brancusi would not have got far without mastering the lost wax technique.

 

This is my view but I make it having seriously studied fine art and art history for around 7 years and being fortunate enough to have been granted a place at Chelsea School of Art on their BA Hons Sculpture course when it was widely recognised as one of the best in the country. Many moons ago.

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Then I guess we need to be grateful that Hon´ami Kôson differentiated the Gokaden so we know which sword art-form we prefer. It's not that I don't like Soshu, especially when I can sit down with my sword mentor's collection of elite blades, but I just don't get the same gut-level feeling as when I'm looking at my Bizento.

 

I'm a Bizen lover, BTW, in case you couldn't guess.   :Drool:

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  • 3 months later...

To me art is subjective, but one pillar for me to consider something proper art is that it has been made by a certain level of skill. Then, another pillar is beauty, which is also subjective. This is where most art lands. Then a third pillar is practicality.

 

Nihonto for me posess all three of these qualities, which is the reason why I am on this board and got some blades in my house. :)

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I don't think anyone can define art. I think Solzhenitsyn put it best when he said:

 

"So also we, holding Art in our hands, confidently consider ourselves to be its masters; boldly we direct it, we renew, reform and manifest it; we sell it for money, use it to please those in power; turn to it at one moment for amusement – right down to popular songs and night-clubs, and at another – grabbing the nearest weapon, cork or cudgel – for the passing needs of politics and for narrow-minded social ends. But art is not defiled by our efforts, neither does it thereby depart from its true nature, but on each occasion and in each application it gives to us a part of its secret inner light.

But shall we ever grasp the whole of that light? Who will dare to say that he has DEFINED Art, enumerated all its facets? Perhaps once upon a time someone understood and told us, but we could not remain satisfied with that for long; we listened, and neglected, and threw it out there and then, hurrying as always to exchange even the very best – if only for something new! And when we are told again the old truth, we shall not even remember that we once possessed it.

One artist sees himself as the creator of an independent spiritual world; he hoists onto his shoulders the task of creating this world, of peopling it and of bearing the all-embracing responsibility for it; but he crumples beneath it, for a mortal genius is not capable of bearing such a burden. Just as man in general, having declared himself the centre of existence, has not succeeded in creating a balanced spiritual system. And if misfortune overtakes him, he casts the blame upon the age-long disharmony of the world, upon the complexity of today’s ruptured soul, or upon the stupidity of the public.

Another artist, recognizing a higher power above, gladly works as a humble apprentice beneath God’s heaven; then, however, his responsibility for everything that is written or drawn, for the souls which perceive his work, is more exacting than ever. But, in return, it is not he who has created this world, not he who directs it, there is no doubt as to its foundations; the artist has merely to be more keenly aware than others of the harmony of the world, of the beauty and ugliness of the human contribution to it, and to communicate this acutely to his fellow-men. And in misfortune, and even at the depths of existence – in destitution, in prison, in sickness – his sense of stable harmony never deserts him.

But all the irrationality of art, its dazzling turns, its unpredictable discoveries, its shattering influence on human beings – they are too full of magic to be exhausted by this artist’s vision of the world, by his artistic conception or by the work of his unworthy fingers."

-Excerpt from Aleksandyr Solzhenitsyn's Nobel Lecture, 1970

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/literature/1970/solzhenitsyn/lecture/

 

I think Nihonto fits this category if it could be defined as such. It is so unique that it's not as easy to define as other forms of art. It is in and of itself, however, a form of art. Unique on this earth, unable to be reproduced. It seems to illuminate another unique part of that inner light.

 

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