Monday, 24 December 2012

Happy Christmas! ハッピークリスマス!

Thanks for looking, supporting and caring in 2012! Please keep an eye on me in 2013...

Monday, 10 December 2012

More thoughts on the residency & my time in Mino

"the painter goes through the land and sees what nobody else has seen because landscape painting comes from inside and not out. It depends entirely on who he is."
Christopher Neve.*

"As Proust said, reality lies not in the appearance of the subject but in the extent to which it leaves an impression on the artist. In other words, realism has to be jettisoned in the search for reality."
Christopher Neve.*

 Mino is centred around the industry of paper making, (in all it's manifestations).  There are at least six large paper making factories in the area. There is also a, government funded, research facility here, solely concerned with the technical development of paper making. There is an impressive, working, museum, dedicated the material and method of the craft and production of paper, in all its forms.  Mino Washi Paper is (as you probably know by now;-), is made by hand.  It's produced in small workshops, dotted around the city and mostly near the Nagara river, (clean, naturally sourced water is essential in Washi production). Only a handful remain, but the quality of what the crafts people produce is world class. The 'Mino Gami', as it's known, is strong, light, clean and very beautiful.  It's uses range from lining traditional sliding screen doors, lantern construction, business cards, printing and art materials.  There are factories producing cardboard here too, sanitary products such as toilet paper are produced down the road from where I'm staying. Papers' place in the community is firmly set.  This became even clearer to me when attending a recent festival.  There, I discovered a local toilet paper factory, giving away two rolls free to anyone, and everyone, that wanted them.  As cheap as toilet paper is, people queued for ages to get theirs, some even went to the back of the queue to get more! It seemed a supportive gesture by the factory, not promotional or self serving, just a continuation of tradition; giving something back.

 The residency was developed with the aim of promoting 'Mino Gami'.  Nearly three months ago, we were shown how to make it.  The lessons were basic, but really, it's technique that counts and practice...lots of practice.  I thoroughly enjoyed making paper, I returned on several occasions to produce sheets that I would utilize in my process and subsequently, in my art works.  I have shunned any machine made paper in the final exhibition. There is human energy invested in my work, the rhythm of the body has been translated into layers of paper fibres, the direction they have been woven together is influenced by food, mood, moisture and temperature.  The raw materials grew in fields around Mino, were subject to possible interference from monkeys and wild boar! The materials were boiled in a huge iron pot.  The cooled, and sun-bleached, fibres were then Washed, graded and sorted by human hands.  Human eyes spotted the 'imperfections' and removed them to produce a pure pulp. I consider Mino Washi to be a 21st very modern material.  It's sustainable, and environmentally sound and with research, I'm certain, it could be applied in even more ways than is already possible.  I'd love to see what industrial designers could achieve with it; what students, back in the UK, would make of it's amazing properties, completely out of the context that I presently find myself within. 

 Please don't misunderstand my respect for Mino Washi as being romantic. The job of making paper can be laborious, it can be tiring, labor intensive, (I've even heard it described as "boring" by a resident,) but I believe it's worthwhile. In making the paper myself, I have encountered the meditative aspects of the process. The time was amazingly reflective and thought provoking, there were times I felt emotional, experiencing lucid memories; I thought of people who'd been instrumental in giving me the courage to be in Japan.  I have felt physically and mentally connected to an aspect of a culture so far away, (in terms of geography and philosophy), from my own. 

For me personally, the conceptual application of Washi has reflected my interest in the corporeal nature of the human body.  How our bodies emotionally engage with a specific place and our sense of connection to an extensive physical, (or conceptual), environment. I am concerned with how we emotionally engage with a location and how this engagement might manifest itself upon the surface of natural and man-made materials.  Washi paper is relatively pure, it's a plant based product. It has a skin like surface and an inherently fibrous structure. Because it is porous, it can respond dramatically to changes in temperature and air moisture content, (it continues to distort and change with the addition/subtraction of these environmental factors).  These properties have proved invaluable to my process and provided a physically defined pathway for my materialist vocabulary to 'evolve'. My work has been, largely process driven, I have allowed accidents and effects to guide my decision making.  
FIELD OF VISION  - Washi Paper

During my time on the residency, I experimented with making direct reference to the body; for example my Akari Lantern - "Sanctuary" utilized the outline of my own hand.  The negative space, found within the central core of the lantern, housed a dried leaf.  The image was limiting, it became too literal, too easy to read; it's ecological message became too overt.  I have chosen to reference human physical processes and structures in a more abstract and minimal way. This approach will allow a broader range of interpretations from its observers. It will allow deeper engagement with the theme of the work and will encourage projection of the viewers own experience, particularly upon the sparse surfaces, of the washi pieces.

SCRATCH THE SURFACE Washi Paper/Spray Paint
How the work is manufactured is always important to me.  The repetitive process needed to produce the paper elements in "Field of Vision" conceptually evolved out of my need for routine & for structure, (largely due to my dyslexia and daily use of 'coping mechanisms'). It comes from my enjoyment of running, walking and cycling - the repetitive motion of propulsion, allowing me to meditate upon the connection with my environment and my intimate relationship with the materials found there. The large scale of the piece is intended to refer to my connection with the cinematic landscape, the space contained within the boundary of the 16:9 frame. The two-dimensional plane of a large cinema screen has never hindered my imaginary, three dimensional, interactions with its projected subjects. For me, the cinema screen has provided believable depth, inseparable illusion and allowed me to totally suspend my system of disbelief. 

 This whole experience has been remarkably worthwhile. I feel energized by my time spent here. My process has been enhanced by my dissertation reading and its been informed by the  introduction to new materials and making techniques. I cant wait to carry on what Iv'e started back at Birmingham City University, (and in my basement!). 

My life has been forever transformed by living with a Japanese family and I have been deeply affected by the, ever changing, landscape that surrounds their home. I am forever in their debt.

*Neve, C. (1990) Unquiet Landscape. London: Faber and Faber.
Page 7 and Page 126 respectively.

Thanks w. ux