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Beauty and Morality in Yanagi Muneyoshi’s Folkcrafts Theory

  • The Journal of Aesthetics and Science of Art
  • Abbr : JASA
  • 2008, 28(), pp.57-84
  • Publisher : 한국미학예술학회
  • Research Area : Arts and Kinesiology > Other Arts and Kinesiology

Shin na-kyung 1

1부산대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The folkcraft theory of Yanagi that identified beauty with morality is based on Ruskin’s aesthetics, which greatly affected painters, philosophers and social activists of Japan from the early Meiji era to Taisho era. In particular, Yanagi extended the realm of art by following Ruskin’s innovative idea on the boundary of art that regarded ‘art’ as a technological production. In addition, Yanagi was deeply affected by Ruskin’s art philosophy that identified beauty with morality by focusing his attention to issues such as relationship among art and the working class and social issues. Yanagi also regarded beauty inseparable from morality and consequently stressed close relationship between craft and a society. And therefore he instilled elements of enlightenment in the Folkcrafts Movement by emphasizing that production of craft with social signification needs a maker’s morality. Yanagi acknowledged diversity in beauty and thought that beauty was related to plastic elements including color and shape. But more than this, he believed beauty was about value and standard. Thus, he argued that the Folkcrafts Movement should address issue of value in addition to beauty. Also, Yanagi emphasized cooperation among industrial designer, industrialist, maker, seller, consumer and connoisseur in order to advance folkcraft in the modern time when the social circumstance and life style changed. This suggests that Yanagi considered folkcraft as part of the modern industry. By the same token, the Sound Beauty of Yanagi was equivalent to moral beauty of artisan spirit. At a glance, Yanagi’s folkcraft theory reminds of Ruskin’s theory of art; however, there are a couple of fundamental differences regarding concept of beauty and labor. Essentially, folkcraft was born in a different cultural context from what impregnated Ruskin’s art theory, and did not provide useful explanation on why folkcraft was perceived beautiful. Therefore, Yanagi examined and studied production process of folkcrafts to develop the folkcrafts theory. During the process, he adopted traditional Oriental philosophy including ‘Gata(型)’, ‘Taryuk(他力)’ and ‘Mushim(無心)’. Especially, since 1931 with launch of the New Folkcrafts Movement, Yanagi’s focused on idea of ‘Gata’, and he went so far as to indicate the concept as essence of folkcraft. As noted, Japan has a strong tradition of arts-revering(技藝尊重) and puts much importance on practice of ‘Gata’ including cultivation of personality. One of the characteristics of tradition in respecting art is the identification of body and mind. Yanagi endeavored to put ‘folkcraft’, which belongs to traditional artistic culture, as a central issue of art, and his position was that a ‘work’ and ‘spirit of a maker’ could not be separated. His art philosophy shows strong tendency of identifying a maker’s personality with the produced work. Accordingly, the reason the Folkcrafts Movement, which initially started off with adoration for Chosun art and traditional craft of the Edo era, developed into a more spiritual enlightenment movement that stressed an artist’s morality is due to influence of Ruskin’s art philosophy as well as adoption of the Oriental philosophy, in particular, the elements of the Japanese art theory including ‘Gata’, ‘Mushim’ and ‘Taryuk’. Therefore, while Ruskin directed his attention to the issue of labor and art and subsequently supported social revolution with interest in working environment of laborers and urgent social issues, Yanagi, instead of focusing on working condition of makers or social condition of production, paid attention to psychology and ethics of individual makers, in pursuing basis for beauty. In this sense, despite the similarity in views on art and society, Yanagi’s folkcrafts theory was based on Oriental philosophy, significantly different from Ruskin’s concept of beauty. As a result of, in Yanagi’s folkcraft theory, the problem of beauty reverts to pursuing basis for beauty in terms of psychology and ethics of individual makers and in their relationship to the consumers.

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