Self-publicising in its most blatant form, but I hope some people might be interested. I’ve just released what there is so far of my new website about Japanese arts. It arose from conversation with several people, mostly Freaky Trigger writers, where I’d be talking about the kinds of links between Japanese artforms, or ways they reflect on western arts, that don’t get mentioned in any of the many books I’ve read about the areas – which do tend to focus on one segment at a time, never on painting AND books AND movies AND comics AND ceramics… I’d keep getting told that I should write a book, but there were various things that put me off that notion, or made me feel inadequate to the task. Also, how do you tell the story of Japanese painting in book form and still make the point that medieval Zen art goes a long way towards explaining the massive popularity of comic books now, or draw parallels between rustic ceramics of several centuries ago and American abstract expressionist painting? It was only when it occurred to me that a website would address ALL my doubts about this project that it all fell into place.

Firstly, I get to do it to my schedule, with no deadlines. I don’t have to think in terms of it being an incomplete work until I hit 50,000 words, at which point I’ve done – there is no right size for a website. I don’t have to find a publisher – which, with my lack of publishing history and total lack of authoritative background, plus the awkwardness of the project, would be hard – as I can do it all myself. I don’t have to face the difficulty of getting lots of good colour pictures reproduced, bumping the publishing cost sky-high. I can do it as and when I want for the rest of my life, without needing to feel I’ve finished, with the permanent option of going back and revising things when I learn more, develop new interests, realise mistakes or whatever. But crucially, I can make links all over the place, in ways that make alternative routes easy to explore. Obviously a fairly conventional history of ceramics is handy to have in place, but I couldn’t resist the potential to link the rustic kind to not just those that came before and after, just like in a book, and the more polished kind produced contemporaneously, but also to the technicalities of why they looked that way, to the concept of the accidental and the flawed in Japanese art, and therefore on to abstract expressionism, to Chinese ceramics, and Chinese splatter painting and later (14th-15th C) Japanese flung-ink painting, to the tea ceremony and Rikyu’s decisive role in Japanese aesthetics, plus some pages on potters of the rustic school, starting with Chojiro… You get my point. That’s hard to do in a book. Frankly, it’s not that easy on a website, if you want anyone to be able to navigate it, and you need some of those solid spinal histories in place first. The site so far has only the painting/printmaking section ‘completed’ (I know I’ll revise and extend parts of that – just got a new book on Hokusai…), but I’m hard at work on extending that soon, and very keen to do the Zen painting section. I hope those interested in Japanese arts will take a look at it.