Yesterday, I posted about my visit to the Geidai craft-dyeing and weaving studios, but I also had a chance to peek into the painting department. Painting is my first love, so I was excited to see what the students were working on.
Some of the second year painters had recently visited a forest in Northern Japan and are now making paintings inspired by the trip (above).
Another painting inspired by the forest. It’s always interesting to see the range of images that result in looking at a similar thing.
The students are trained in traditional Japanese painting methods and I was surprised to see that the techniques were much different than what I learned in art school. Most of the students were painting with dried pigments that are mixed with glue made from cows. The glue is heated up (above left) and mixed with the dry pigments in small bowls. The pigments don’t react well when mixed together. Some can cause cracking or other problems. As a result the students don’t mix their own colors. The pigments are used straight out of the bags (below left), but there is a wide range of hues to choose from.
This student sits in front of his very large painting. He laughs when he realizes I’m taking a photo.
Tokyo University of the Arts, or Geidai, is one of the oldest art schools in Tokyo. I have the opportunity to visit and tour the facilities today. Toru Ishii is my guide. He’s an artist working with textiles and dyeing fabrics. He’s been studying textiles for ten years and is now working towards his PhD. He shows me the dyeing and weaving studio (below right). A student draws on fabric with rice paste (below left). Bottles of pigment are organized on the shelf according to what type of fabric they are used for (above right). Different pigments are better for silk, cotton or hemp.
Another student paints dye onto the fabric. Rice paste is painted on the pattern which resists the dye. This way the colors don’t bleed into one another. After all the colors are added, the fabric will be rinsed and the paste removed, revealing the completed design.
Toru takes me into the rinsing room where the fabric is washed with water (below left) and steamed to set the dye. He shows me the bowl that he uses to make the rice paste (below right). He explains that it takes many hours to mix the paste. A nice example of a katazome stencil (above right) and more pigment (above left).
Toru shows me the complicated dye pattern that he’s making for an exhibition in London next year. This is the back of the image before it’s been rinsed with water. I think it’s beautiful already.
We take our shoes off before entering the weaving room. Yarn is being dyed in large pots of pigment (left). Toru remarks that the process of dyeing is a lot like cooking. I have to agree. Details in the weaving room (right).
Kita-in is a Buddhist temple in Kawagoe that is famous for the 540 statues of Rakan, disciples of Buddha. Each statue is unique and they include a wide range of personalities. Two Rakan chat with each other (above). One plays music, another holds a rabbit, and yet another drinks sake. This crowd of statues seem to speak to each other, almost as if they were alive.
Masashi Shiobara has been selling my paintings in Japan for many years. He’s become a good friend and today I had the pleasure of visiting his hometown on Mount Akagi. It’s about three hours from Tokyo. We drive up the windy roads made famous by the street racing manga and anime series Initial D. Once we arrive, we take a ride across the lake in the Art Office Shiobara boat (above left). Masashi’s nephew (above right) looks adorable as he poses for a photo in a traditional costume at the tourist center.
Masashi looking cool for the camera.
The midday fog rolls in and we decide to walk down the 800 stairs (above right) to the natural spring. I do this successfully, down and up, in 4 inch heels! The landscape is amazingly green and lush.
Masashi’s childhood home.
Cleansing with the spring water at Akagi Shrine (above). In 2007, a Shinto priest from this shrine gave me my name in Chinese characters.
I wake up early this morning and take the train to Chofu, where I meet a friend from high school who now teaches at The American School In Japan. He has invited me to speak to a group of graduating seniors who are interested in pursuing art in college and possibly as a career. I focus my talk on how I started as an artist and show images of my early work. The kids are curious about my story and they listen patiently, despite the fact that they have two more days until graduation!
I take a tour around the school, which starts from kindergarten and goes through high school. There are several art rooms, a great supply closet filled with paper, paints, clay and even a kiln. I’m impressed by the creative environment.
Two of my paintings are included in this group exhibition at Kawagoe City Art Museum titled “Pop Art 1960’s-2000’s”. The show is up from April 27th- June 16th.
Misako and Jeffrey Rosen are two of my favorite people in Japan (above left and right). I’ve known Jeffrey since his LA days, which seems like ages ago. Their gallery Misako & Rosen served brunch yesterday afternoon, all food handmade by Misako, for the opening of Kazuyuki Takezaki’s show titled “Numbers and Variations”.
Details of the installation (above). It was a fun afternoon with many artists and friends stopping in to see an inspiring show.