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Trésor vivant by Marc Petitjean

A sensitive portrait of the artist as creator and artisan

Film-maker Marc Petitjean presents an introduction to the art of kimono painting through the work of Japanese ‘living treasure’ Kunihiko Moriguchi. Shot while ‘embedded’ with the artist and his family, the film explores the concept of the transmission of timeless craft skills.

Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès - Trésor vivant by Marc Petitjean
© Marc PetitJean

Yuzen is a fabric dyeing technique dating back to the 17th century. Now aged 70, Kunihiko Moriguchi is the steward of an ancestral skill handed down to him by his recently-deceased father Kako Moriguchi, a celebrated kimono painter and living national treasure before him.
The heir to an art form dating back several centuries, Kunihiko Moriguchi, has harnessed this priceless expertise to incorporate Western motifs assimilated during his three years at Paris’s
École des Arts Décoratifs, combining a proud paternal tradition with the currents of modern art.

Shot in Kyoto, the film captures Kunihiko Moriguchi’s daily life. While the artist is dedicated to his work as a painter, his children – it seems – are not… On the upper floor of the family house, an apprentice learns the ancient art in the workshop of this ‘living national treasure.’ Kunihiko divides his time between painting new kimonos and perpetuating the record of his skills through exhibitions and interviews.

In Japan, living national treasures are recognized as the stewards of traditional techniques that need to be preserved. Each ‘treasure’ works to perpetuate their expertise and train apprentices in a spirit of artistic continuity. Living national treasures take individual and collective responsibility for their work.

In the context of post-tsunami Japan, Marc Petitjean films a deeply traditional society confronted with the challenge of modernity, and pays tribute to a technique of exceptional refinement.

Filming and production of the documentary were supported by the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès as part of its programme of support for the transmission of ancestral artisan skills.

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