Lesley Kehoe Galleries Online
THE JAPANESE NOREN
Screen, bamboo screen, rattan blind
Noren were used as a protective barrier against wind and sun. Some accounts suggest that the orgins of noren stretch back to Jōmon times (14,000-300 BCE), whilst others cite the Heian (794-1185) or Kamakura periods (1185-1333).
By the Edo Period (1615-1868) the noren had become a fundamental part of business premises and profiles.
In the renowned woodblock series by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), One Hundred Famous Views of Edo 名所江戸百景 'Meisho Edo Hyakkei' (below), several of the images feature noren, indicating its place amidst the increasingly urbanized and trade-focussed activities of the new capital and its denizens.
Utagawa Hiroshige 1797-1858
Featuring Edo’s premier store, the Echigoya, which continued as today’s famed Mitsukoshi department store, and Edo’s premier mountain, separated from the mundane by majestic clouds, Hiroshige illustrates both the authority of Edo as well as its growing commercialisation. The preponderance of noren with the Mitsukoshi crest extending the full length of the street and fading into a distant exaggerated perspective symbolizes the power and reach of the business.
Along a street of shops with full-length noren distinguishing three different businesses, Hiroshige has left one open so we have a peep into the interior as the cotton merchants perhaps check stock or count the day’s takings. Two geisha return from evening entertainment, the raised eyebrow of their attendant, just behind the front figure, suggests perhaps some concern at their behaviour.
The noren plays many roles. As an essential symbol of a business, the design and physical attributes communicate a sense of fashion, style and appreciation of culture.
As one of the most public facing aspects, noren may function as an advertising medium and signal when a premises is open & closed. Indoors noren may be used to decorate; vary interactions of light, shadow and visibility; and divide space.
The reputation and credibility of a business is also reflected. A damaged, tired or faded noren signaling perhaps a struggling or suspect business; a lack of care and attention to detail; products/services of inferior quality.
A physical manifestation of the division between outside/inside, public/private, visible/invisible, accessible/inaccessible; noren imbue spaces with novelty, nuance and intrigue.
Using the noren as the canvas for his original designs, tsutsugaki master and contemporary textile artist Shumei Kobayashi carries the thread of tradition into today.
Some sewn together to become tapestry wall hangings, some left open to retain the provocative mystery of the partially obscured space - it's no surprise that Kobayashi’s works adorn the walls of venues such as Tetsuya's Sydney & Singapore restaurants; The Hyatt Centric Kanazawa; Sake Southbank and Azuma Japanese restaurant in Sydney.
Largest noren created to date
@ Azuma Japanese restaurant Sydney
Azuma Japanese Restaurant, Sydney
AVAILABLE NOREN | a selection
View On A Wall
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