Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Postcard of the Day No. 35, A Tokonama

This has been a favourite for more than 30 years since first acquired as one of a batch of Japanese postcards bought from Baldur Books in Richmond. Baldur Books possessed a wonderful stock of postcards presided over by the infamously obstreperous Eric Barton. The exceptional quality of the stock fully justified the risk entailed in unwittingly provoking the wrath and contempt of the irascible proprietor. I was fortunate enough to escape unscathed but each visit offered a master-class in the dark arts of customer intimidation ranging from mild exasperation, “Can’t you see I’m trying to finish my lunch?” to outright hostility. The most memorable example of which was the occasion when a customer attempted to buy a stack of about six Hentys and met with a complete refusal to sell followed up with a volley of abuse accusing him of taking advantage of his generous nature while planning to swindle him of an enormous fortune. This was wonderful stuff to watch and it was remarkable how swiftly customers would back down and accept the inevitable when confronted with the full force of Mr Barton’s malevolence.

As for the card, it describes a very different universe where the search for orderly perfection takes priority. A fastidious sense of composition and proportion is combined with a refined sensibility to colour and surface to create an eternally fascinating image in which the eye is invited on a journey of discovery around an almost empty interior. The bonus card below, from the same source, is for Marcel Duchamp. It’s a fine display of Japanese bridal paraphernalia locked into a rigidly geometrically defined space – there’s even a frame that echoes the outline of The Large Glass. There seems to be something in this card that would cater to Duchamp’s obsessive quest to represent human intimacy in the language of bio-mechanics.

No comments: