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Scholten Japanese Art Gallery
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Paul Binnie, The Stone Bridge

Paul Binnie, Scottish, b. 1967

The Noh play The Stone Bridge
(Shakkyo)

woodblock printed on gold paper, sealed in purple kanji at upper right, Bin-ni, with date seal Heisei kyu nen (Heisei 9 [1997]), signed and titled in purple kanji at lower right, Shakkyo, and signed in English, Paul Binnie A/P

dai oban tate-e 16 1/2 by 12 1/4 in., 41.8 by 31 cm

This composition depicts an actor wearing a shishiguchi (lit. lion mouth) mask from the Noh play Shakkyo (The Stone Bridge). This is the first woodblock print Binnie published depicting the Noh theater, though he crafted a number of paintings of Noh in the 1990s. Unlike kabuki, which was full of motion and action, Noh plays tended to be less physically dynamic. They often employed intricate and heavy costumes, and could have actors standing in a pose and speaking for long stretches of time. This scene, however, includes a unique shishimari, or lion dance, which was a very skill-intensive performance requiring special movements and heightened expressiveness. For this reason, Shakkyo is classified as a hiraki-mono, a ceremonial performance in Noh theater which demonstrates the elevation of a performer to a high level of achievement. Because Shakkyo is a uniquely accessible piece, it is often performed to entertain foreign dignitaries and others unfamiliar with the theater tradition.

Reference:
Paul Binnie: A Dialogue with the Past - The First 100 Japanese Prints, 2007, p. 85, no. 43

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