Kodō (古道, “the ancient way” )

“Until I live the realm of the spirits is our way” (Kojiki)

Kodō  will be like a journey to a realm where, literally and figuratively, material and supernatural elements mingle and intertwine. We’re about to enter the world of humans, gods, spectres and demons; the world in which its human dwellers have always and always will follow “the Path of Gods”, and the divine element “kami” (Shinto: divine, deity, divine being) penetrates and calls into being everything. This is not some made-up fantasy world we’re talking about here, it is Japan and its World of the Divine and Supernatural…

The Artworks  by Anna Herman, which will be shown at the exhibition,  belong to two series. First of  them illustrates the events as presented in the oldest Japanese literary piece called Kojiki.  Kojiki could be considered a chronicle telling the metaphorical story of the founding and creation of Japan as a kingdom and a country, its cultural and religious identity , its world of gods and spectres, rituals, as well records of the ascending to the throne emperors.

Onna Monogatari”  series draws the inspiration from the rich and colourful world of the Japanese folklore and its supernatural beings called “Yokai”, later explored with the intriguing obsession by the Edo (17th-18th centuries) artists in their woodcuts (Ukyio).  Yokai initially meant “spectre” or “stranger apparition”.  Nowadays this word became the umbrella term for everything and anything supernatural; refers to both fantastical creatures and spectres, demons, as well as wandering the earth ghosts of the dead.

It is worth noting that woman holds a special place in the world of Yokai, or rather her wandering, “hungry” ghost.  Her story is always sad and ends with a gruesome and tragic death.  Woman in Japanese  Yokai folk tales is either betrayed, wrongly accused, condemned for false reasons,  left behind and abandoned,  then meets her tragic fate – usually murdered. Seeking vengeance  she rises from the dead to seek her oppressors, killing them mercilessly. The horror and fatal beauty of these tales obsessed Edo artists to whom they – female Yokai – were also the opportunity to explore the Woman as the epitome of Beauty, still, in juxtapose to her changeable and dark nature (as in Chinese philosophy of Ying and Yang). One could argue that female Yokai was the Japanese Femme fatale .

Anna Herman, as the Edo artists,  submits to the charms of “female-demons”. The reason however is different. Herman’s interests lie in the social status of Woman in the Japanese society through the history. Woman’s role was very limited and she was rather confined within the image of s a graceful and submissive. It seems the only way out of that proverbial prison  “picture perfect” was through death and in afterlife as a ghost or spirit, or preferably a deity

In Anna Herman’s paintings the Yokai females are heartless seductress. The macabre intertwines with beauty and  woman sensuality, the literal with the  symbolic. Herman, with ease and mastery, operates with  colour and detail to let the viewers’ guard down.  Charmed and at first sight a viewer begins to notice subtle yet alarming elements of garments or depicted woman’s physiognomy. They indicate that something is not right… It is but a game of  make-believe;  between the tantalized viewer and Yokai. The difference being the tantalized will live…

Both Kojiki and Yokai present two sides of the same “cultural” coin, so to speak. In its broader sense they refer to the very sense of   Spirit of Japan “forged” by – or in, actually – the Japanese folk tales and spiritual beliefs. In these two series the individual artistic style of Anna Herman meets the Japanese traditional and nuanced way to “tell-a-tale” of dark and sometimes cruel world of gods, sprits and ghosts, the demon and the divine. All this rich yet complex realm is the very foundation of the cultural and national identity of the Japanese people.