ANNA BRISTOW - JAPANESE ART IN CAMBRIDGE
For some people intellectual curiosity never ends. Anna Bristow is one such seeker after solutions. Born in Mantova in Italy she has spent her life in the world of education as a professor of modern languages and literature yet a lifetime of creative teaching was never enough. Anna became interested in the art and culture of Japan. Through intensive study she has arrived at a kind of cultural symbiosis with all things Japanese.
Anna Bristow’s art derives entirely from her admiration and even reverence for the profound beliefs and values of Oriental societies.
“ I do admire them.’ she confesses ‘ When I visit there it is quite clear they honour old people in a way we can only hope to emulate. It stems of course from their veneration of their ancestors, contained in their traditional religion”
From this source, Anna has constructed a world of beautiful Japanese and even Chinese inspired landscapes which do not attempt to mimic the original but to bring a Westerner’s eye, an Italian perspective,, to the natural world as realized in Japan’s art.
She paints usually on hand made thick paper in a spare and thoughtful way.
The results are contemplative rather than spectacular, quietly eye catching rather than overwhelming. And with the interest in art has come inevitably really given her mastery of languages, a desire to speak and write Japanese. Few realize that these Oriental languages have a sharp divide between speech and writing. They are not phonetic. So when written down, pictograms are necessary to convey meaning. In classical Chinese writing, an educated person is expected to memorize up to six thousand such sign writings each one different from the other. In Japanese it is a similarly breathtaking acheivemnt to simply read anything.
Anna Bristow has begun to write in the language of the art world she admires and to compose the traditional poetry of Japan, the famous minimalist form the Haiku. Quite a few of her latest paintings contain her condensed thoughts written in Japanese script - and she has helpfully added an English translation.
Delicate minimalist and spare, some of these paintings are stark. Others are lush with colour to reflect the range of nature. With new and older paintings, Anna has brought her skills of language and interpretation to merge with her love of beauty – and framed them in the traditions of a country far different from her native Italy.
Mind you, she has already done that once, when she moved from Mantova to Cambridge all those years ago.