Netsuke Dreams is a unique take on traditional Japanese Netsuke sculptures. The myths and art from Sheng’s Japanese ancestry inspired her to reimagine the Netsuke by enlarging them on canvas and incorporating pigments that were never present in the traditional ivory or wood sculptures. Sheng describes this process as, “providing new environments for the characters to live in, creating new worlds which I call, Netsuke Dreams.”
Netsuke has been a part of Japanese culture for over three hundred years. Traditionally, Japanese men wore kimonos that did not have pockets for their tobacco pouches, pipes, purse, writing utensils and other daily objects. Instead, they kept their belongings in a container called a sagemono that hung from a silk cord around the obi (sash) around their waste. The Netsuke attached to the other side of the silk cord to even out the weight and keep the sagemono from falling through the obi. The intricate carvings on the Netsuke include plants, animals, legends, myths, gods and many other portrayals of Japanese culture. As European dress increased its influence in Japan during the 19th and 20th centuries, practical use of Netsuke declined. However, Netsuke lives on today as Japanese fine art created by master carvers.
Yani Sheng was born in Taiwan, raised in Belize, educated in Canada and now calls Columbus, Ohio home. She earned her B.F.A. in Visual Art and her Bachelor of Education from Memorial University. In addition to several galleries abroad featuring her work, Yani had her first solo exhibit at BrickBox Studios in Columbus. The Columbus Art Festival deemed her an emerging artist, and the Columbus Museum of Art featured her work in “An Evening with Art 2018.” She is known for the theme of “flow” in her work reflecting the energy that flows through our bodies when we concentrate on activities we enjoy. She puts her own perspective and flow on traditional Netsuke in Netsuke Dreams.