Miriam Cosic is a Sydney-based journalist and author.
The concept of shibui permeates Japanese culture: its arts, its architecture, its dress, its food, its politesse. It refers to subtlety, simplicity, precision, elegance, understatement. It’s not an attribute of an old-school upper class but one found in the everyday.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales’s wonderful exhibition, Japan supernatural, displays the id behind the nation’s superego, in an enduring engagement with the turbulent world of ghosts and monsters and terrifying supernatural goings-on that are the flip side of the outward Japanese self-discipline. Unlike in Europe, where the horror of traditional fairytales was eventually tempered for children’s consumption, the Japanese kept the psychological and the pre-scientific explanatory value of scary stories intact.
All manner of media, from early silk scrolls to towering contemporary...