|What is NIHONGA......?
Nihon (Japan) and ga (painting)made out of two words Nihonga meaning painting in Japanese style. Its origin can be traced back to a thousand years ago, though the name Nihonga was given in the Meiji era (1868-1912) in order to distinguish it from other art forms.
Japanese artists are working in many styles of painting like the Ukiyo-e (wood block painting) and screen painting, among others. The most traditional mediums of Sumi-e known as Indian ink painting and Nihonga -the rock pigment painting on hand-made `washi paper are today the most popular mediums amongst the famous Japanese contemporary artists.
Nihonga involves the use of iwa-enogu (rock pigments). These pigments are derived from natural minerals, shells, corals, and even semi-precious stones like the garnets and pearls. Powders are ground up to 10 gradations from fine to sand grain textures. The finer the powder, the lighter the colour. The use of sumi and gofun and these powders with nikawa (glue) and water, applied by brush on washi paper is Nihonga. 1500 basic colors can be mixed and layered when creating a painting. The beauty lies in its natural matt finish and the brilliance of pigments.
Some of these basic pigments have interesting origins................
"Sumi" or black ink is made from carbon obtained from burning pinewood and rapeseed oil. The carbon is kneaded with glue, moulded into various shapes by slow natural drying.
" Gofun" shell white pigment is derived from clan and oysters shells. Shells are weathered, crushed mixed with water and ground with a stone mill, levigated and dried naturally on wooden boards.
" Enji" Cochineal red. This is made from secretions of the lac insect larvae as well as from extracts from the female cochineal insects.
"Kin " gold and "Gin " silver are used either in the form of wash-kindei and gindei or leaf- kinpaku and ginpaku. Japans' gold leaf is the thinnest in the world. Gold leaf is mixed with animal glue and rubbed to form gold color.
"Nikawa" the animal glue was traditionally made by boiling animal hides for a couple of hours. The extracted liquid was poured into a container and moulded like gelatin into thin sticks (sanzenbon) and dried for use. However, after the war, synthetic binding mediums have been used.