There is no English equivalent to the word katachi
, which roughly translates to mean the essence of Japanese design. It is a term that expresses the aesthetic beauty, the refined minimal form, the time-tested functionality, and the fine workmanship of traditional Japanese crafts that have endured for centuries. Author Takeji Iwamiya (1920-1989), one of Japan's foremost photographers and a professor at the Osaka University of Arts, spent a lifetime collecting examples of katachi. Many years in the making, his masterwork Katachi: The Essence of Japanese Design
is a thoughtfully rendered tribute to the objects that epitomize the Japanese design aesthetic, as well as a celebration of the culture in which they were produced. At 432 pages with 600 black-and-white photographic reproductions, this contemplative volume offers a thorough sampling of objects organized around materials that have played an important role in Japanese life for centuries: paper, wood, bamboo, fiber, clay, metal, and stone. The collection ranges from simple carved boxwood combs to the elaborate Edo-period hairstyles they were used to create; from endearing cherubic palace dolls to an ominous array of kitchen knives; from austere arrangements of garden stepping-stones to exquisitely detailed floral sugar confections. A thought-provoking essay by Mutsuo Takahashi entitled "Through the Mirror of Japan" precedes the images, which are presented in successive full-page spreads and identified in brief endnotes. This elegant softcover book will appeal to designers, artists, connoisseurs of Japanese art and culture, and many others. --A.C. Smith
Reviews from: CONDÉ NAST HOUSE & GARDEN
Takeji Iwamiya's stunning black-and-white images of objects as intricate as a carved gate and as humble as a comb convey the essence of katachi—the traditional Japanese sense of form.
"Katachi," loosely translated as a sense of form, was photographer Iwamiya's masterwork, 50 years in the making. His photographs showcase geometric stone temple carvings to humble objects such as bamboo baskets, tea whisks, lacquerware, paper cutouts, sandals, rakes, teapots, dishes and more. Whatever the object, its execution has been pursued with excellence in workmanship and an astringency of taste. Iwamiya's camera records not only their pared-to-the-bones forms but captures the intangible qualities of the Japanese aesthetic, which has the power to transform the observer's perceptions.