Throwing sumi-ink, blindfolded…
photos’s and video by robert j. mang
Throwing sumi-ink, blindfolded…
Cycling the Kibi Plain near Okayama, rice is the visual staple as it is the predominant crop. I have been lacking in contemporary art since Naoshima and Teshima, so I decided to create my own by capturing images of rice. It is harvest time; these images are all post-harvest shots.
This is my third journey to Japan, each visit reveals another layer, different from the last, building in complexity. Negotiating typhoons, I landed at Narita airport and continued on to Takamatsu to the island of Shikoku. Up early in the morning with no time for jet lag I travelled by train to the Isamu Noguchi museum. Being an architect and artist it was the perfect combination on my first day in Japan. A feast for all senses. I was permitted to take this photo of his signature on one of the finished sculptures.
After a short ferry trip to the island of Naoshima, what had begun as a feast transformed into an opulent banquet of contemporary art, architecture and food. Benesse Art Site comprises several museums, Art House Projects, hotel, and restaurants on different islands within the Seto Inland Sea. I was very fortunate that my friend Mitsue was able to help me navigate the different venues.
I was extremely impressed with most of the work, but beyond that, the reverence for contemporary artists and their work is the highest I have encountered.
Lee Ufan – one of my mentors – has an entire building designed by Tado Ando dedicated to his work.
James Turrell has several works including a 45 minute night viewing program of Open Sky. An incredible opportunity to really experience the phenomena of light, color and sky interacting.
However all these works were surpassed by a unique and sublime collaboration of art, architecture and nature by artist Rei Naito and architect Ryue Nishizawa on the island of Teshima. A bike ride on a perfect morning brought Mitsue and I to the Teshima Art Museum – museum is a completely inadequate word for the experience of this place. In fact words are useless. Photos are not permitted of most art works at the Benesse Art site, and this was no exception – I am particularly grateful in this instance as it preserves the spiritual nature of this profound permanent site-specific installation. Photos are useless – you just have to be there!
I can barely see the adjacent building, rain drops are in a race with gravity across the window of my hotel room as typhoon Vonfong rages outside…and I wonder what other encounters are on the menu during my visit.
Sixteen friends and collectors of contemporary art from The RAM visited my studio today as part of their art excursion to Santa Fe.
Here are some photos of my installation, and the opening night group show, “About Paper”, at Couturier Gallery in L.A. The exhibit will be up until January 4.
The wall installation is “Floating Pellicule”
[handmade kozo paper, kakishibu, and beesax , 105″ x 30″]
The three sculptures are “Strata Installation”
[handmade paper, hand collected clay from Santa Fe, and beeswax 13″ x 12″ x 12″]
I recently spent a couple of days in Echizen, Japan, which is a village dedicated to the fine art of hand-made paper. I knew it was going to be tough making a large sheet of kozo paper – I have only made small sheets in my own studio – and my gruff non-English speaking sensei definitely put this gaijin through the paces.
Anxious to show that I wasn’t a lazy Westerner I worked hard to prove myself in the short time available. I was grateful for my recent weight training as I raked a large wooden frame back and forth through the pup-laden vat. Next was the art of using a large wooden stick to “slice” through the pulp to further separate the fibers.
Without language to help my understanding of the process my best guide was to replicate the sound that this stick made as it struck the bottom of the vat. My first few attempts resulted in pulp-laden water spraying over me and other objects in the path. I knew it was going to be difficult to form a sheet this large, and it was. I made about 50 attempts before I produced anything that was worth saving.
I’m grateful to Rina Aoki for a wonderful time touring several different types of washi studios – including that of National Living Treasure Ichibei Iwano IX. I have a more profound appreciation of washi and the people that make it.
Photos from opening night. The show runs May 31 – July 6.