itaeng About the artist Jean Tori Design
"Teacups, Teapots and Landscapes"
2013, Atelier Il Camino, Prosperi Vitelli Villa, Citerna

An exhibition of Jean's miniature paintings alongside pottery by Fanette Cardinali displayed in the tiny Renaissance Palazzo Vitelli of Citerna.

"Dragons, Monkeys and Pomegranate Trees: Stories of Coloured Images"
2008, Galleria d'Arte la Loggia, Sansepolcro

From the catalogue of the exhibition.

Today you show us your ‘work’. A very particular ‘work’ which requires daily effort and dedication, united with the necessity of ‘play’, imagination and wonder. To be amazed and to have the capacity to continually discover the world are essential to creating art. These are elements that belong to one’s attitude towards life, which you have, forming a character, a language and the instruments with which to express and communicate.

You have chosen simple forms, mastering your tools so that you may transform them to your desire, transcending towards poetry, in an unceasing search for harmony between discipline and constancy and the need for meditation and even silence, which allow you to joyfully express your creativity in works of art of beauty for yourself and others.

Alessandro Kokocinski
"Horoscopes and Teapots"
2006, Green Tea, Pantheon, Rome

Jean Tori, painter, traveller, tea drinker and teapot collector. She paints, evoking memories of the Orient, remembering bamboo, blue porcelain and red lacquer, Shanghai carpets and the Chinese zodiac. Then, after thirty years in Asia, living and painting in colour, returning to Umbria from the Orient, her painted teapots on mulberry paper find themselves surrounded by the intense light of the Umbrian hills and forests. Teapots, colour and a zodiac of animals on display in a Chinese tea house.
Essential, just like Green Tea.

"Asia, Umbria, Living in Colour"
2003, Art Hotel, Via Margutta, Rome

LIVING IN COLOUR - Introduction to Catalogue

There are many reasons that ever more foreigners are attracted to the regions of central Italy: The beauty of the landscape, the richness of the historic and artistic patrimony and the wonderful quality of life. One just has to see the phonebook to understand how many English, Americans and Germans have made their homes in Tuscany, Umbria and the Marches. The majority of which tend to frequent only their fellow countrymen and they tend to isolate themselves and reduce to a minimum their contacts with the locals whose country they are guests. Others, very few, integrate themselves completely with the local residents and make the local traditions their own. They absorb with curiosity and enthusiasm the best that the regions have to offer and what is offered to them. They establish a profound and warm relationship with this country that they have adopted. Without a doubt, one of the few to have done this is Jean Tori. Born in England, she moved to the Asia after her studies, first to Korea and then to Hong Kong for almost 30 years. In 1996, just before Hong Kong was handed over to China, Jean returned to Europe and chose to live in Italy. After a patient and attentive research she chose to live in an old farmhouse in the Upper Tiber Valley in Umbria. The variety and sweetness of the landscape, the integrity of the environment the proximity of many artistic centers was what convinced her. Maybe even without knowing it, she experienced the same sensations described 2000 years ago by the dignitary and literary Roman, Plinio the Young, who wrote in a letter to his friend Apollinaire: ”…The vision of the countryside is beautiful: Imagine an immense amphitheatre, that only nature can create. You would experience a great pleasure if you saw this regions from the viewpoint of the hills. It would appear to you, in fact, to view, not just the countryside, but a painting of incredible mastery. There is so much variety that one takes in splendid visions wherever one lays one’s eyes .” After having found the front seat in what is the theatre of her life, Jean worked hard and with great enthusiasm to restore the family’s farmhouse, with the intense perfectionism of restoring the home with the original architecture and only using traditional materials. This restructuring brought her into direct contact with the local people and especially with the local artisans, who’s work and talent she appreciates immensely, including their simple humanity and the typical discrete dignity which the Umbrians are well known for. Once the house was finished she filled it with objects which reminded her of Asia. There are paintings, furniture and sculptures chosen with great care during her many years of travelling which form her own personal museum, one which conserves a memory if interests and passions in her life. This brief biography, in my opinion, is fundamental in order to understand the artist and her works of art which are otherwise impossible to attribute to any one artistic school, or influences of the great masters or pre-defined artistic schemes. The originality of Jean Tori’s work of art lie in the simplicity with which she manages to achieve a synthesis of her personal encounters with Asia and Europe and the way she manages to transmit to the viewer the world which she has internalized through her memories.
The oriental objects, which she has collected, appear in her paintings as animated and full of colour and light and she places them next to fabulous animals, exotic plants and medieval churches and castles. She works hard at reproducing and imitating everything that she loves, instilling in the viewer a feast for the eyes and a gift of magic harmony. One has the pleasant sensation of a journey among recognized landscapes each time filled with imaginary or real figures which transfigure themselves and portray light and unusual colours. A relaxing journey which transmits tranquillity. Among the soft Umbrian hills where Francis of Assisi would speak to the people and animals it seems appropriate to find the tiger from the Chinese zodiac or the cuddly and inoffensive German Shepard who guards Jean’s farmhouse. The paintings in this exhibition, “Asia, Umbria, Living in Colour”, make us think of a journey, which, like a daydream, is without schedules nor does it apply to a consumerist tourism. It is a journey without borders. A journey one can travel without pre-defined destinations, just those of enjoyment of harmony and the pleasures of magical atmospheres. Jean offers us a joyous mix of a celebration of colour, a presentation of oriental atmospheres, gifts of landscapes, architecture and a European geometry, all of which combine in a sort of bridge towards a new world. A world which for some is like a kingdom of happiness of the aesthetic of oriental traditions and for others a sort of Arcadia or paradise on earth of a European tradition. A world where burocratic and cultural boundaries are prohibited, as is violence. A universal utopia of a better world, enhanced especially by its differences, where the road is opened by the possibility of living together, through dialogue and tolerance. The universal utopia of a better world, a world of colour.

Paolo Lupatelli
"In Umbria, A Journey of Colours Returning fron the Orient"
1999, Monument of the Convent of Santa Giuliana, Perugia

NATURALNESS AND ARTIFICE - Introduction to Catalogue

Even an artist of proven sensibility and with a consolidated culture, when put in contact with other cultures is able to activate a capacity for latent creativity. For this artist, traveling has not just been physically moving but has also been a question of intellect; traveling has opened up new perspectives and going beyond a varcata una soglia, she has found herself looking at things in a new way and at the same time has been able to portray them visibly, with intensity. This is the way of being an artist for Jean Tori, intense, to the point of allowing her to perceive and, simultaneously, allowing her to uncover her own particular artistic world. In these days and not only in/through art, concepts concerning complicatedness and inaccessibility of languages have become the norm, however, a known behavior which takes the maximum of the artifice and turns it into a sort of piacevole and evocative naturalness is to be considered as rare. Culture and art should ovviare this carenza, impegnandosi to tutelare it's own history, or be it ovvero the dignity of their own being as a rarity, understood not as something alienating but rather as a contiguita, vicinzanze with one and with the world, a complexity which enigmatically must make itself more natural, naturalness. This conquest of simplicity becomes a sort of revelation; fortified from feeling which does not require arcani, but comes alive because of a freshness, almost primeva, where the tensions of art si stemperano in a sort of desired elementariness which seems able to render this artist immune to various vizi typical of the art of this period. It is a type of poetic movente which leads her to the conquista of simplicity, because she is aware of such simplicity and naturalness and it reveals itself. In various works of her art, the influsso of esotismo non di maniera is enriched by vague reminiscences of Western art, maybe only perceivable to our abituato eye which is only used to seeing, even in works of art dotati of their own singularity, vague influssi forzosi, hypothetically provenienti the Doganiere Rousseau or from Matisse, for example. But as we said, this could be a conditioned reaction which derives from our culture, because in reality Jean Tori's work maintains it's own particular, exemplary creative independence and freedom. She uses squillanti colors and precious papers, perseguendo a personal style which is recognizable and difficult to inserire into easy patterns/ schematismi, and which is impossible to ricondurre to preconceived ideas. In her recupero of the elementary and of the esotico, the artist ritrova an internal memory which brings about certain expressive qualities, which, veicolate from her an undoubtedly formal elegance, reveal the capacity to distill, tramite a particular form of essentialness, rich with sense which should be the alfine the precipuo goal of all works of art.

Edgardo Abbozzo
"Fantasy More Fantasy "
1993, Mandarin Oriental Fine Arts, Hong Kong


Jean Tori seems to have found in Asia everything she needs for her art. Perhaps there were also influences from her native England or even Italy where she met her husband, Ugo.
But in Asia, where the Toris have travelled and collected extensively, Jean’s style seems to have blossomed and it was in Seoul in 1975, aged 35, where she had her first show.
The Tori’s collection is particularly strong in Korean folk art and there is something in its traditional naïve style which is reflected in Jean’s paintings.
Jean has adopted most of her subjects from Asia, the landscapes and the animals – especially the twelve of the Chinese/Buddhist zodiac. From Asia too comes her sense of textile – like patterns, the saturated colours of Chinese embroidery, the inlaid shapes reminiscent of cloisonné.
She is an artist of the tangible, of the life she knows, albeit with more colour and style than any photographs might convey. Many of her images show places where she or her friends have lived. Often she is commissioned to create a painting which shows several aspects of the subject’s life in one image.
She fits into the tradition of delighting in the inspiration of one’s immediate surroundings and in this she has affinities to van Gogh, Matisse, and – closer to home – Louis Chan. Like the latter she uses reality as a stepping stone to a more fantastic reflection of the world.
There is something almost seamless in the Tori’s style of living which connects their expansive hospitality, the vivid décor of their home based on a keen familiarity with Asian folk traditions, their collection – which delights in images which most often have in common an open, accessible charm and thus to Jean’s work which reflects her personal warmth, her curiosity about Asia and that generosity which evokes in the viewer a smile of recognition and pleasure.

Henry Steiner
"Fantasy On Paper "
1985, American Club, Tokyo, Japan

THE JAPAN TIMES - "Personality Profile: Jean Tori", February, 1985

When people look at Jean Tori’s paintings, she said she likes “to see them smile, step back, adjust their vision and look again. I’ve no wish to confuse them with my paintings, but perhaps through my eyes they will see there’s a little more light, life and humour in the world than they think.”
Jean Tori grew up in the countryside and seaside England. Her early influences then were strongly the natural ones of flowers and flower colours. Since then, she has moved around, studied and experienced, her materials and styles have changed so vitally that she is able now to call the results “fantasies.” Her colors have developed into vividness. Her lines describe swirling movement. Her designs make intricate emphases. But, she says, “there is nothing mystic in my work. I just paint what my eye sees.”
At the College of Art where she enrolled after her school-days, Tori took a comprehensive diploma course in display, publicity and design. From the college she went to live in Italy. “Just being in Italy surrounded by incredible art forms – each doorway opened into another magical garden – gave me a different perception and another jolt to my imagination”, Tori said. On her return to England, she worked at window display during the day and taught colour theory at the college during the evenings. Four years later, in 1964, she went back to Italy to marry her Italian fiancé.
In 1971, the couple with a 2-year old daughter transferred to Korea. Korean temples re-kindled in Tori and old interest in architecture. Additionally, she described herself as intrigued with the humour, style and color of Korean folk art. She said, “I discovered the textures of Korean handmade paper, which I still use for most of my paintings. I learned to make Korean screens.” In an innovative approach to an ancient form that was new to her, she made “paper canvases” of her screens by strengthening them with layer upon layer of paper before painting them. Korean artists told her that her screens would last a thousand years.
Tori gave her first solo show in Seoul in 1975, the year before the family moved to Hong Kong. In her travels around Asia, she has collected ancient pieces of silver and beads and oddments that have caught her eye and fashioned them into necklaces. She regards her necklace collection as an extension of her painting.
Tori offers to anyone commissioning her work a portrait that shows more than a face. In painting she suggest the subjects lifestyle with adjuncts of astrological signs, possessions, pets and hobbies, as if “making the pieces for a jigsaw puzzle, then putting them all together.” The result is an allusive illustration of a complete person.
In Hong Kong, Tori has had several exhibitions, both one-woman and group. Her first exhibition in Tokyo, entitled “Fantasy on Paper,” is to be held from Feb, 25 to March 10 at the Genkan Gallery of the Tokyo American Club. Jean Tori will be present in the gallery on the afternoons.

Vivienne Kenrick
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