The title of this print, 'Busho', means warlord, and the image of traditional armour and helmet evokes the samurai heroes of Japan's mediaeval past. Samurai legend and mythology are deeply ingrained in the national consciousness of Japan. The samurai have been romanticised and idealised, and their legendary acts of heroism are known to every schoolchild. Renowned for their bravery and stoicism, the samurai lived by a most exacting code of behaviour, known as 'Bushido' (the Way of the Warrior), in which the highest value was placed on loyalty to their lord. Those found guilty of disloyalty were expected to commit 'seppuku' or ritual suicide. The legends and ethos of the samurai live on in plays, television dramas and the films of Akira Kurosawa ('The Seven Samurai', 'Throne of Book', 'Kagemusha').
Williams was born in Lima, Peru, and now lives in Shiga Prefecture. For him 'bonsai' is a sort of ghost or echo from Japan's martial past - an image that is quaint and somewhat sinister at the same time. He believes a knowledge of a society's past is essential to the understanding of its present and future, and hence has depicted this image of a vague memory dimly gleaming in the half light of the past.
Jackie Menzies, Contemporary Japanese Prints: The Urban Bonsai, 1992, pg. 97.
Place where the work was made
Shôwa period 1926 - 1988 → Japan
49.0 x 44.0 cm image; 56.0 x 56.5 cm sheet
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r., pencil "Brian Williams '88".
Gift of the artist 1993
Not on display
© Brian Williams
Where the work was made
Shown in 2 exhibitions
The Urban Bonsai:
- Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane 04 Mar 1992–04 May 1992
- National Art Gallery, Wellington, Wellington 20 Jun 1992–09 Aug 1992
- Christchurch Art Gallery, Christchurch 12 Sep 1992–29 Oct 1992
- Manawatu Art Gallery, New Zealand 13 Nov 1992–10 Jan 1993
- The George Adams Gallery, Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne 18 Mar 1993–25 Apr 1993
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 08 May 1993–01 Aug 1993
- Lewers Bequest and Penrith Regional Art Gallery, Emu Plains 11 Mar 1994–24 Apr 1994
- Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra 19 May 1994–19 Jun 1994
- Campbelltown Arts Centre, Campbelltown 15 Jul 1994–21 Aug 1994
- Moree Plains Gallery, Moree 11 Nov 1994–24 Dec 1994
- Tweed River Regional Art Gallery, Murwillumbah 01 Feb 1995–05 Mar 1995
Heroes and Villains, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 19 May 2001–19 Aug 2001