On Producing the Paintings

Mukai Daisuke and Matsubara Ami

Haiku, the shortest poems in the world, have an incomparable appeal. Revisiting the haiku of The Narrow Road to the Deep North to produce these paintings, we contemplated the depth of meaning in those 17 syllables and the subtlety of Bashō’s spirit.

When people are moved by what they see or hear or feel, there is a variety of means for that expression, including words, paintings, and music. When it comes to painting, one ideal is to not paint too much, or to express something without painting it.

For this work, we included calligraphy in the paintings. Bashō’s artistry is fully expressed in his haiku, so we faced the question the role the paintings, what they should depict or not depict.

Rather than painting the entire scene of the haiku, we decided to extract a key word or theme to convey. Also, by choosing the format of scattered fan paintings, a classic style of Nihonga, we were able to retain the integrity of each theme while expressing the flow of time in Bashō’s journeys. We hope viewers of this work will first be drawn in visually by the paintings, and then read the haiku to enter more deeply into Bashō’s view of the world.

On Producing the Calligraphy

Wakai Kōju

To produce the calligraphy for the 50 haiku from Bashō’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, I consulted the Bashō volume of Iwanami Shoten’s compendium of classical Japanese literature. My goal was to make legible calligraphy, with the paintings and the texts speaking to each other. I hope viewers will continue their journeys, with Bashō’s haiku in their hearts.