AD HOC GARDENS OF JAPAN

Shinto shrine
A tiny Shinto Shrine near a Buddhist Temple – happily, this was on one of my typical morning walks. I was able to capture many images of this glade on the edge of a small bamboo clutch.

AD HOC GARDENS OF JAPAN

My name is Jon Griffin Donlon, I’m a Louisiana artist, educator, and scholar. I received my art degree from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (Ull now) in the seventies and I’ve been active in drawing, painting, photography, writing and related undertaking since then – right now I manage this website.  Currently aside from developing Dr. Leisure’s Louisiana, I’m most fully engaged in photography, one particular suite is my set of images I call: Ad Hoc Gardens of Japan.

Until recently I was a full-time faculty member of Tokai University in Tokyo.  Prior to my return stateside, I worked in the Department of Sport and Leisure Management, Shonan Campus of Tokai University, Hiratsuka, [Tokyo] Japan, ending as a full Professor in Sport & Leisure Management.  Thus it should not be surprising that some of my most recent work involves a large suite of lavish 16 X20 and 17 X 22 photographic prints set in Asia.

. . . . until recently I was a full-time faculty member of Tokai University in Tokyo . . .

 

Ad Hoc Gardens of Japan as a full show opened at the Louisiana School CPT (Center for Performance and Technology) Gallery, Natchitoches, Louisiana, and January 16. By lucky coincidence “Exploration Day” of LSMSA took place the first full day the show was

Ad Hoc Gardens of Japan
Ad Hoc Gardens of Japan – Referencing a formal feeling for space, but with informal locations and materials.

available in the gallery. As a result, a teaming crowd nuzzled cheek-to-jowl from the get-go. I recall telling the press “I could not be happier with how the thirty or so prints look now all together at one place formalized for display.” Since then, several frames have shown in a group show at the Co-Op in Lafayette, an example was selected for this year’s ULL Alumni Show, and I’ll fill the Dean’s Gallery in Fletcher Hall at ULL in February, 2019. I’m always looking for other venues for displaying this work, so please let me know.

” . . . I could  [not have been]  happier with how the thirty or so prints [looked] all together at one place formalized for display. . . then, several frames [were] in a group show  . . .  in Lafayette . . .   an example was selected for the ULL Alumni Show . . .  and I’ll fill the Dean’s Gallery in Fletcher Hall at ULL in February, 2019 . . .

 

As with my paintings and prints of drawings and my drawings, these digital photos are available for purchase by collectors in 17 X 22, 16 X 20, and 11 X 14 size.  All sizes are nominal; “sizes” refer to paper scale, prints include a white border around a necessarily smaller image area.  Contact the artist, an agent, or visit the website for other details.

 . . . these digital photos are available for purchase by collectors in 17 X 22, 16 X 20, and 11 X 14 size . . .

 

Ad Hoc Gardens of Japan
A “One Meter Garden” devotes just a tiny generally about square space for intense design and variation – Ad Hoc Gardens of Japan

A TRADITION OF RECORDING THE EXOTIC OTHER

My series, Ad Hoc Gardens, of Japan both extends and breaks with the tradition of recording images of the exotic other. I spent almost a decade living and traveling in Asia, primarily Japan, strolling the lanes of Kamakura, wandering about Kyoto, rubbernecking in Nagano, walking the streets of Tokyo as well as roaming generally around Asia, happily capturing the images I loved of a setting which moved my soul. During this time I captured an enormous number of iterations of these vernacular Ad Hoc Gardens. Now I have selected a suite of images to print and display.

 . . . I spent almost a decade living and traveling in Asia, primarily Japan, strolling the lanes of Kamakura, wandering about Kyoto, rubbernecking in Nagano, walking the streets of Tokyo . . . 

 

Typical, perhaps, of photographers of my generation my “way of seeing” exhibits a telling reflection of the f. 64 camp, with its emphasis on choice, clarity, and finish, what has been called a “ . . .. Modernist aesthetic that was based on precisely exposed images of natural forms and found objects.” I only very rarely use my technically precise 4 X 5 camera now, phasing almost entirely into contemporary digital technology. However, I believe that experience “under the drape” was good training for being thoughtful and reflective about composition.

 

Japanese gardens
Ad Hoc Gardens of Japan – Simple and Elegant

I was strongly influenced by the so-called “street photography” ethic extending from Henri Cartier-Bresson, to such artists as Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander and/or Wolfgang Tillman’s and Martin Parr which I see as the logical extension of the flaneur, an observer of the streets who was often a “traditional” artist or writer. I see special agency in selecting and arresting a unique moment and rendering it in time, either as an image or in text.

These particular photographs often show wonderfully informal appropriations of marginal space – I hope this is so, and also that feature is general in my other work.

 .  . . I was strongly influenced by the so-called “street photography” ethic extending from Henri Cartier-Bresson, to such artists as Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander and/or Wolfgang Tillman’s and Martin Parr . . . 

 

Some of these examples of “container gardens” are obviously fully developed “landscaping” efforts, designed to bring plants into a peopled space. Others involve utterly “ad hoc” use of found containers populating otherwise fallow edges and borders.  While in Asia, and especially in Japan, I saw these Ad Hoc Gardens created from an enormous range of vessels, frequently from disused Styrofoam fish boxes, not unusually from individual beverage cans.

 

THE ROOTS OF JAPANESE GARDEN DESIGN

Classical Japanese garden styles devolved from Chinese forms.  The general aesthetics of Japanese rock or Zen gardens (often called meditation gardens) and of roji, which are simple, rustic gardens with teahouses. Traveling a variety of routes, these have become reasonably familiar in the west. Indeed, as one online encyclopedia put it, “since the end of the 19th century, Japanese gardens have . . . been adapted to Western settings.” There is a well-established tradition of both exporting these formal garden designs to the west and recording beautiful images of traditional Japanese gardens in etching, paintings, and large format photography.

Very often a single pot or vessel made up the “garden.” At times, I found an individual soft drink can, stuffed with compost, hosting a growing plant, resting on a ledge.

ABOUT THE FUTURE

During my lifetime as an artist, consultant, educator, and writer, I’ve lived and worked in Africa, Asia, Europe, France, the Near East, the Mediterranean, and the United States, though my Asian experience is obviously a high point.  I remain a Fellow, Royal Geographical Society, London, and a member of Louisiana Folklore Society and member of the Popular Culture Association of the United States; I belong to the Scientific Exploration Society, London and to Phi Beta Delta, the Honor Society for International Scholars. This Ad Hoc Garden Project has been a primary concern for some time, and my emerging set of travel images, reflect these interests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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