As we all wriggle impatiently in our seats, itching in anticipation for Star Wars: The Force Awakens to come out, we can content ourselves knowing that a Star Wars tribute is currently on display at a famous Japanese temple in Kyoto.
Kiyomizu Temple, an iconic Buddhist temple famous to Japanese and foreigners alike, hosts an artwork like we’ve never seen before. Imagine a pair of gilded screens: a curious hybrid between an elegant folding screen, a traditionally executed dramatic painting, and Star Wars characters.
Taking inspiration from 17th-century artist Tawaraya Sotatsu’s Fujin Raijin-zu byobu, or Wind God and Thunder God Screens, Japanese artist Taro Yamamoto has recreated a dramatic standoff between two rivals. Yamamato substituted Star Wars’ Rey and droid BB-8 for Fujin, the Wind God, and the deadly Kylo Ren for Raijin, the Thunder God. Armed with lightsabers, they float on wispy clouds hovering over a stunning golden foil backdrop as they prepare to duel to the death.
The screens’ unveiling pays tribute to the 400th anniversary of the birth of the Rinpa school of Japanese art, renowned for its dynamic compositions and flamboyant use of precious materials like gold leaf and pearl inlay. At the screens’ opening, Stormtroopers, in the flesh, stood guard beside a calligraphic scroll by kanji artist Seihan Mori, who is also the temple’s chief priest. The writing on the scroll spells out 覚醒 (kakusei), or “awakens,” riffing off of the title of the incoming Star Wars movie.
Artists are always faced with the challenge of how to keep artistic legends and legacies alive. With this new artwork, Yamamoto has offered an engaging solution to this ongoing problem of bringing the past into the future. “It was difficult to bring out what is good about the characters,” Yamamoto said. “As an artist in the modern age, I hope this will help carry on the Rimpa school” in the future.
The Star Wars screens are on display for the public at Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto Prefecture from December 8-15, and in Tokyo at the Nippon Television Tower in Shiodome from December 18-29th. Don’t miss seeing this unique fusion between traditional Japanese painting and futuristic Star Wars characters!