Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series

Histories in Transition

Ryoanji Garden as the Epitome of Zen Culture: The Process of Transnational Canon Formation

Tuesday, 4 Deceember 2012

17.30 - 18.30, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre

Ryoanji Garden
Ryoanji Garden, Kyoto. Photo: Toshio Watanabe
Speaker(s): Toshio Watanabe (Professor, University of the Arts London; and  Director, Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation (TrAIN))

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission

Organised by: Dr Ayla Lepine

The stone and sand garden of Ryoanji temple in Kyoto is now usually regarded as the greatest Zen monument, expressing the essence of Zen culture. However, this canonic status was argued only since about the 1930s and initially within a transnational modernist milieu. Mirei Shigemori, a friend of Isamu Noguchi, in Japan and Lorraine Kuck in USA/Hawaii both contributed greatly to push Ryoanji garden into the canonic icon of not only Japanese garden art but also of Zen culture per se. This lecture will examine this process.

Toshio Watanabe is Professor at the University of the Arts London and the Director of the Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation (TrAIN). His publications include High Victorian Japonisme (1991, winner of the Prize of the Society for the Study of Japonisme), Japan and Britain: An Aesthetic Dialogue 1850-1930 (1991), and Ruskin in Japan 1890-1940: Nature for art, art for life, (1997, winner of Japan Festival Prize and of Gesner Gold Award). He was President of the Japan Art History Forum (USA), Chair of the Association of Art Historians and member of the Tate Britain Council.

The 2012 Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series explores intersections between modernity and historicism worldwide. It extends and enriches the Research Forum project Revival: Utopia, Identity, Memory and interacts with the provocative Research Forum theme, ‘The Quick and the Dead’. Spanning art, architecture and design across America, Europe and Asia from the nineteenth century to the present, each lecture demonstrates the allure and the value of the past in forming challenging responses to new circumstances. Interrogating the nature of revival, historicism and transnationalism, the series engages with nature and artifice, ritual and memory, and the flexible meanings of materials, images and structures that simultaneously inhabit traditional and innovative territory.

Sponsored by the FM Kirby Foundation and The Prince's Foundation

Traditionally sponsored by the F M Kirby Foundation, this year the Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series is also sponsored by The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community; Transforming Lives through Engaging, Educating and Empowering People.

“The Prince's Foundation believes that sustainably planned, built and maintained communities improve the quality of life of everyone who’s part of them. They help us both live better at a local level and start dealing with the broader global challenges of urbanisation and climate change. Our goal is a future where all of us can take part in making our communities more sustainable. We're working with everyone from local residents groups to governments to make it happen.” See

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