Mythology in Motion by David Ward

This gallery includes a portrayal of high movement Japanese artwork, including works depicting mythological figures from the Shinto faith, and their legendary stories. Susano'o no Mikoto, the god of the sea, storms, and the underworld, will be the mythological figure that will be discussed in further detail.

Mythological figures and highly regarded individuals are portrayed in Japanese artwork doing some sort of movement or action. In this painting, the viewer can see the legendary warrior Minamoto no Tametomo fighting off two inhabitants, who are trying to steal his bow. When looking at this artwork the viewer can feel a sense of motion and movement by looking at the inhabitants, and how they are pulling the bow. Tametomo is also standing in a way that looks like he is pulling the bow backward, due to the curved back and position of each leg on the figure.
This artwork was apart of the popular painting series based on eight hundred heroes from The Water Margin. Utagawa Kuniyoshi painted the series on wooden blocks, and this painting specifically depicts the mythological figure Kazusanisuke Hirotsune defeating a supernatural nine-tailed fox. These foxes were said to have the ability to transform into beautiful women, and lure men to their ultimate demise. The main element that gives this painting high movement is the position and detail of each tail on the fox, as well as Hirotsune's hunched over stance.
This painting depicts another legendary hero from The Water Margin series, called Jiraiya, who possesses the ability to control frogs and snails. In this painting Jiraiya is holding his characteristic weapon against a snakes head, due to it terrorizing his frog friends. Just like the previous painting, the hero's hunched over pose, and hair, gives this this painting movement. The main element that gives this painting a lot of action and movement is the way the snake coiled. The snake's coils give the viewer a three-dimensional effect, as if it was moving towards them.
In this wooden block painting from The Water Margin series, portrays a legendary story of a young hero named Otani Koinosuke, who was gifted with remarkable strength. The story that is being displayed is of a wild boar that hunters were having a hard time catching with their bows, but Koinosuke managed to capture the wild boar with his bare hands, by crushing it's skull. The detail in the individual boar hairs on the back left leg really adds to the movement in this painting, as well as the hair flow on Koinosuke. Another element that gives this painting movement is the dirt clouds surrounding both figures, due to the ground impact.
This wooden block painting is from the series Twelve Heroes of Japan, and depicts the loathed general Kajiwara Heizo Kagetoki pointing out to sea, with two soldiers in a tent looking in the same direction. This painting not only has elements of movement using human figures, but it also contains natural elements adding more motion to the painting. The flow of the water provides an illusion that it's washing ashore with the white streaks in the water itself, and the detail that the white wash has coming onto shore.
This painting is an illustration of Susano'o no Mikoto, who was one of three powerful brothers that controlled the natural elements. Susano'o no Mikoto was the god of the sea, storms, as well as the underworld, and the viewer can see Mikoto using his powers to help defeat the serpent laying below the water. With the crashing of the waves against the rocks, as well as the flow of the water provides very high movement to represent Mikoto's use of his powers. The wind blowing against the tree's and Mikoto's hair also provides the viewer with a sense of high movement through out the painting.
This painting, just like the first few examples, is painted on a wooden block, and is another rendition of Susano's legendary story from the previous painting, just painted by a different artist. This painting depicts Susano'o standing at the edge of a cliff, locking eyes with the serpent that has been keeping his wife, who is also the Princess, hostage. Comparing this painting to the previous one, it seems as if Susanoo hasn't started using his powers to help defeat the serpent. Even though Susanoo is portrayed in a standing position, his hair and clothes gives the viewers hint's of movement, but the artist still managed to provide the viewers with more subtle movements, through the use of the Japanese stylized water, and the serpents coiling figure.
This painting depicts the part of Susanoo saving his wife, Inadahime and awaiting the eight-headed serpent that has been keeping Inadahime captive for so long. Even though one figure is standing and the other one is sitting, there are examples of high movement within this painting that really stands out. The wind is the main factor behind the movement in this painting. The wind is pushing the water up against the cliffs, while also blowing through both figures hair and clothes, giving the painting a lot of motion for such a low action painting.
In this painting Susanoo is portrayed face to face with a dragon, and the story that inspired this painting is how Susanoo acquired his powerful sword that he is always wielding in other artworks. Susanoo retrieved the sword from one of the dragon’s tails, and is carved from sacred jewels. The visual movement that is being displayed in this painting is Susanoo's clothes flowing in the wind, and the structure of the clouds. Also very faintly the viewer can see movement in the dragons body curving through the clouds.
Susano'o no Mikoto is still celebrated and remembered today through many other media, like this float. This float depicts a three dimensional version of all of the dragons and serpents that he has defeated with his conventional and legendary sword. Even though this is a float, this work of art has a lot of movement all though out the float, from Susanoo's fighting stance to the details of each dragon and serpent head.
Credits: All media
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