Written on December 20, 2011
I think many of you already know of the remarkable Japanese book, Grandfather’s Envelopes, which has something of a cult following around the world. The book, which shows a carefully edited selection of the envelopes hand made by Kouzaki Hiromu during the last 15 years of his life, is a beautiful elegy to the quiet and unintended artwork left behind by this simple man.Kouzaki’s granddaughter, Fujii Sakako, was the force behind this book, a labor of love in memory of her grandfather and his quiet, epic accomplishment. The Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin is now showing the envelopes–thousands in all–for the first time outside Japan.From The Douglas Hyde Gallery’s website:
Kouzaki Hiromu, the grandfather of the exhibition title, was born in 1902 in Japan. He learnt carpentry at the age of 15 and eventually became a master builder. As an elderly man of 80, partly to keep his hands busy, he began to make envelopes from used paper that he found around the house, and soon this activity took over his life. He made envelopes almost incessantly. When he died, at the age of 95, the family put paper into his coffin so he could go on producing them.
The envelopes, made from used and unwanted materials…are not artworks, but neither are they exactly everyday objects for use. What is most remarkable about them, apart from the silent, diligent, and obsessive manner in which they were made, is their wonderful simplicity and humility – qualities that are not much in evidence in our materialistic world.