What is mingey, or “art for the people“ in Japanese?
the Japanese art criticism term mingey consist of two hieroglyphs: min. - “people“ and Gay`s - “art“. That is literally it could be translated as “folk art“.
However the literal translation will be inexact. The matter is that under this term two concepts disappear at once:
1) public is art - the esthetic movement;
2) the use subject made the artist`s hands - the nonprofessional according to the esthetic principles.
The movement mingey arose in Japan in 20 - e years of the 20th century. The art critic Yanagi Muneyosi stood at his origins. Developed by Yanagi ethics - the esthetic bases of the theory mingey are guided by the Buddhist concept of absolute belief ( of a tarika ). According to it an enlightenment - release from illusory ideas of the world - is not found through own merits, and granted by Buddha`s mercy. In the sphere fine beauty which cannot be result of conscious efforts of the artist as is born spontaneously as result of joint action of the whole people throughout generations acts as analog of an enlightenment. Original beauty arises only in hands of the handyman, absolutely free, unlike the professional artist, from claims for self-expression. The artist reaches perfection if completely refuses judgments of beauty or ugliness of the objects produced by it. “Neegoistichnost“ ( musin ) - category of the theory also Buddhist in character mingey. It is achievable only in collective creativity of “the simple people“ ( minsyu ). Thus, its idealizing concept of the people has the expressed religious coloring, and idea of beauty is equated to concept of spirituality.
Sources of the movement mingey , along with his theorist Yanagi, had the English artist and the ceramist Bernard Leitch (1887 - 1979), Tomimoto Kenkiti (1886 - 1963) ceramists, Hamad Syodzi (1894 - 1978) and Kavay Kandziro (1890 - 1966). Masters - weavers, woodcarvers and other masters constantly joined ranks of the movement. The movement set as the purposes collecting and exhibiting of products of national crafts, deep studying of craft in different parts of Japan and its promoting, support of the dying-away types of national craft. For the solution of the last task the craft unions were financed and organized. All this became for encouragement of production and sale of original objects of folk art. Also the Museum of the Japanese national crafts opened in 1936 was created. in Tokyo and continuously filling up the collection.
Yanagi was under the influence of ideas of the English artists - Pre-Raphaelites. These patriotically adjusted romantics stood up for return to sources of national art, to its “natural“ state which is not “distorted“ by hegemony of the Italian Renaissance (represented for them by Raphael`s figure) yet. One of the leading figures and ideologists of Pre-Raphaelites William Morris created artel of manual production of works of art and household items, trying to revive ancient craft receptions and to open secrets of medieval masters. By an example of this artel the craft “shop“ community was organized in 1927 in Kyoto. However the enterprise was impractical and though similar attempts continued and further, mingey they did not play a noticeable role in activity of the movement .
After World War II interest in national crafts began to grow promptly, in the different regions of Japan the museums opened. The mass appeal to the movement mingey promoted a wide circulation of his ideas in society. However promoting was followed by distortion and simplification of concepts of Yanagi, loss of their religious and spiritual components.
From the short characteristic of the theory of this it becomes clear that mingey as a thing is an object of craft, but not arts. It is the use subject made with own hands having essentially utilitarian character unlike bidzyuets , the work of art which is not carrying out any other function except purely esthetic. On the other hand, this concept not quite coincides also with concept kogey - handicraft production which purpose is exhausted by satisfaction of domestic needs. Products mingey are functional, their forms are dictated by appointment that excludes redundancy of a decor and a special subtlety of processing. However, besides practical usefulness ( yo ) these objects possess property of “spiritual usefulness“, or “usefulness as a hobby“ ( kokoro - e - but yo ), personify spirit of the people. Therefore it is possible to refer to them also less functional works from the expressed esthetic component. Thus, kogey is the generic term including both manual, and industrial production. And the best products kogey , having art advantages, can be carried to mingey . The last have to answer the following conditions: lack of excessive expenses of time, means and work on their production; possibility of repeated reproduction of a sample; manual production. And yes among kogey should put the products manufactured manually above. They are distinguished not only by more careful processing, but also existence of the spiritual component enclosed by the master in a subject in the course of its creation.
which reached us mingey are dated since 15 century when purely national architectural style and the related traditional Japanese way of life everywhere extended. promoting of a tea ceremony became an important factor for development mingey. In it demotic household goods began to be used: tsurube (a well bucket), teoke (wooden cups), takekago (bamboo baskets) and other products from a bamboo, simple and even intentionally rough ceramics. Since the beginning of the 20th century, with distribution of mechanical production and synthetic materials, national crafts in Yanagi`s understanding endured a gradual decline and their many centers died away.
Traditional classification mingey includes 6 categories on materials and technicians, and also art forms: pottery; tree and bamboo; metal and skin; weaver`s and tinctorial business; paper; painting, sculpture and calligraphy. Moreover, architectural constructions, first of all houses can belong to this category.
Participants of the movement mingey made for preservation of the national culture and promoting of its achievements much. In many respects thanks to their efforts it is refined - simple, powerful and expressive, elegant and lapidary products of the Japanese masters became known around the world. It is represented that this Japanese experience very much should be adopted also to us!