This pair of screens employs a method of compositional abstraction found in other works attributed to Sōtatsu. The artist has constructed an abstract pictorial space from concrete, recognizable motifs. This is a way of looking that relates closely to the decorated paper designs Sōtatsu produced in the first half of his career and represents an effort to transfer smaller-scale decorative abstraction onto grander formats. Gold and silver foil and malachite green divide each screen into three main sections. An evergreen tree beyond a rolling hill, flowing waters with floating fans, and a bridge and boat’s prow are distinct parts within an abstract whole—a remarkable yet puzzling viewing experience.
Ivy Vines, Bridges, and Floating Fans
Japan, early 17th century
Pair of six-panel folding screens
Ink, colors, gold, and silver on paper
Freer Gallery of Art, Gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1902.102-103