‘What is a Netsuke?’ Lecture @ LKG

Here a Hare, There a Hare
What is a Netsuke? – More than a hare with amber eyes

Lesley Kehoe Galleries lecture – with guest artists Susan Wraight & Leigh Sloggett
October, 2011

From Paris via Vienna to Melbourne, devotees of Edmund de Waal’s ‘Hare with Amber Eyes’ gathered at the gallery for a discovery of netsuke and were delighted and intrigued with the history and social background of the art form (Lesley Kehoe), the intricacies of tools and materials(Leigh Sloggett) and the beguiling fascination of narrative, tactility and intimacy that netsuke represent (Susan Wraight). Delightful company, stimulating talk,  and a delicious lunch at sushi bar Heirloom was topped off by a hand-made Japanese sweet in the form of … a hare with amber eyes!

The seminar day was complemented by a fine exhibition of antique and contemporary netsuke. Many found new homes. Major works are still in the gallery and can be viewed by request.

Bonham’s London have an upcoming sale of exceptional antique netsuke from the Harriet Szechenyi Collection. The Szechenyi Collection focuses on the mythological animal, the shishi, and has been documented and published by Rosemary Bandini (Hotei publishing 1999). Estimates seem unrealistically low for excellent works many by major netsuke artists.

View the Bonhams sale

Leigh Sloggett – www.leighsloggett.com
Susan Wraight – contact the Gallery on +61 3 9671 4311

What is a Netsuke?
Lesley Kehoe

The survival of the Ephrussi netsuke collection as the leitmotif of one man’s discovery and retelling of his family history has captivated millions. Edmund de Vaal’s ‘The Hare with Amber Eyes’ has rekindled interest in the Japanese netsuke, but it provides scant information on the nature of netsuke: Japanese and part of the fad of Japonisme in 19th century Paris; able to be purchased in large quantities; significant enough to be displayed in a special vitrine; fascinating to the Ephrussi children in their mother’s boudoir, but perhaps not important enough to be on display with the Ephrussi art collection; small enough to be smuggled and hidden from the Nazis.

The Japanese netsuke has been regarded in the West as a significant art object and focus for serious collecting activity since the 19th century. Sales records have reached astounding heights. Dedicated clubs, societies and journals abound in the West, and more recently in Japan. Reference material in English outweighs that on any other subject of Japanese art, yet much confusion and lack of knowledge remains.

As an art form, the netsuke has continued into modern times and
has captured the creative interest of Western artists. Internationally recognized netsuke artists, Susan Wraight and Leigh Sloggett live
in Melbourne. Susan is the recipient of the inaugural Golden Dragon Award for contemporary netsuke, and both artists have work in leading international museums and the collection of HIH Princess Takamado.

Our one day seminar will answer many questions, provide the opportunity to meet two outstanding artists and discuss their work, and to add to, or begin, a collection of these bewitching art objects.

Susan Wraight
Artist Statement

“The telling of stories and the way we thereby shape our cultural perceptions is a fascination that constantly informs my work.
Its mood is celebratory: an acclamation of all that delights and intrigues me,; and of those experiences that mark my life’s journeying. My imagery is drawn largely from the natural world, which has been a siren call on my life since childhood.

I seek to make pieces that are intimate, accessible, and suffused with narrative; although each carving is made as a personal, and often private, expression, I also want the work to engage the onlooker and I enjoy the ways in which others contribute thoughts and memories of their own to the life of my carvings. Netsuke are an ideal vehicle for these intents. Working comfortably within a craft that has a long and rich tradition, with some attendant functional and aesthetic requirements, I find that I strive not so much for a new way to look at the world, but rather for new things to say about it.

I also enjoy the acquisition and use of skill that the carving of netsuke demands, and the way in which this enhances the fluency with which I can articulate my ideas.

Pick one up. Look closely. Listen with your fingers to the stories they tell.”

Leigh Sloggett
Artist Statement

My fascination with netsuke started in 1974 in high school. A chance encounter with a book in the school library was to be the beginning of a life time career with netsuke and Japan.

Fine art at Caulfield Institute of Technology and a ten year focus
on oil painting and sculpture followed. An underlying and continued passion for netsuke prompted a desire to study in Japan, and I
was extremely fortunate to be accepted as a student by leading contemporary carver Bishu Saito in 1993. My first exhibition and
sale of professional netsuke occurred in Japan also in that year. After a prolonged period of study and practice in Japan, I returned to Australia from where I continue an international career in
netsuke carving.

Intimacy, beauty of form and purity of material are some of the characteristics that continue to draw me to netsuke.

Within the confines of function, and function dictates the qualities that make netsuke an unique art form, I have found a vehicle for creative expression that delights and excites me.

As a contemporary creative artist I strive to make distinctive