Books, Anna Jackson, Japanese country textiles

A visually rich if somewhat repetitive account

Visually this book is a feast, illustrating in full colour the collection assembled by Jaap Langewis in the 1950s and 1960s for the V&A. Much information is to be gleaned about the islands and their rich textile traditions. Any text on Japanese country textiles will necessarily entail discussion at some length of the Mingei movement, and this book is no exception. The author gives a good summary of the personalities involved. In my opinion, the movement’s interest in context has adversely influenced the structure of the book—“context” is examined in the first chapter, and the objects themselves in the second, leading to repetition and much page-flicking to find the illustrations of the pieces under discussion. I would have welcomed a few simple line drawn maps within the text. The book become much more animated in the last chapter devoted to “studio” textiles, when the struggle to present a reference book is set aside and the author shows her real enthusiasm for these textiles as inspiration for contemporary artists. Patricia Frost.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 78 February 1998