Female Figure

Japan, Aomori Prefecture
Final Jomon period (1000-300 B.C.E.)
Earthenware with traces of pigment (Kamegaoka type)
H. 9 7/8 in. (25.1 cm); 1979.198

Artist Comments

Heri Dono
I chose this representation of an ancient female figure, as well as the figure of a man, because they are both comical and appeal more to me than the more classical artifacts. The woman has been made with artistic license and the emphasis is on her shape. This fat lady gives out a sense of warmth and happiness. I see her to be middle-aged and the way in which her arms hang, I feel that she should be carrying something, weighed down on each side holding buckets of water. In modern times perhaps she would be carrying plastic shopping bags full of groceries. The woman's overall shape is distorted as though what we are seeing is an image from a magic mirror in a fun house. Her conical rice hat and her clothing seem traditional of folk people, I feel as though she's a farmer working in the cold outdoors, even in the snow, because she wears thick, warm clothes that cover part of her face. The thick, strong calves and tiny feet suggest she can't go anywhere in a hurry and therefore is never in a hurry and plods through life.

Ong Keng Sen
I chose this figure as it is so different from the Japanese art that we see today. As we encounter cultures, it is often easy to say "that's just so Japanese." This figure completely breaks that cliché of stark austerity and highly stylized minimalism which has come to characterize one type of Japanese aesthetics. It is also very different from the urban pop that contemporary Asian youth identify with today. In a sense, an exhibition like this often makes the visitor reflect on the process of time; how representation often narrows into a stereotype and we spend all our time trying to undo the cliche or to counter the established norm. Here is the living proof of the multiplicity of cultural expressions in the continuum of time. The perverse beauty of this figure with its superb thick neck is intriguing as it may suggest a standard of beauty and aesthetics aspired toward.