Portrait of ‘Emptiness’

When I saw the painting  I felt like there is another world expanding behind the yellow light and  I could go deeper into it.

It was at Jun Fukukawa‘s solo exhibition held at Void+ in Aoyama from Oct 7 to 21.  In the gallery, he exhibited only a few selected pieces that portrayed his inspiration from the poem of FUJIWARA no Teika.  The tile of the exhibition was named out of the poem.


“There are no flowers or autumn leaves around, but heart moves with sadness when viewing small cottage bathed in autumn sunset”

The poem connotes that even after the beauty falls, there still some kind of beauty exists within the empty loneliness.

Fukukawa interpreted that this poem depicted ‘Shikisokuzeku (色即是空)’, which is a concept of Buddhism meaning that very form in reality is empty. Any forms or visible things won’t stay as they are and changing the form in every second, therefore, the situation that looks empty at one time is not really so. On the contrary, what looks empty is energy that is continuously creating those forms.

Fukukawa was interested in  Teika’s approach in his poem to capture this ’emptiness=eternal truth’ existing in the dualism of two completely different sceneries aesthetic and loneliness. He purposed  to capture the essence and visualize it in his picture by using a composition of small panels.


198cm x 198 cm sized picture is composed by multiple panels painted firstly with acrylic paint and then repainted with a pastel crayon. Although each panel has a different tone and nuance of yellow colour, after combined, it casted one integrated warm glow. Its calm appearance made me feel embraced and relieved.

If I am asked what wabi-sabi means to me,  I would answer it is like a shadow in mind that one cannot get rid of (This is only my personal interpretation so that please do not take as a general definition). If the shadow is something what Fukukawa portrayed in his picture, I think it would be a great consolation.


About Jun Fukukawa:

Painter. After graduated from Seijo University, he moved to France in 1991. He made his debut at salon saga découverte 94 at Paris art fair fiac, represented by galarie Alain Veinstein. After 7 years stay in Paris, he returned to Japan. Since then, he has continued his distinguished expression as a painter. He is also active as a saxophone player, mainly collaborating with upcoming Norwegian musicians of improvised music.

If you want to know more about his work, please visit Jun Fukukawa

蓬莱山:Hōrai-san – A Vision of Utopia


Via 着物作家の笑える日々

For celebrating festivities or a moment of wishing good fortune and be superstitious, we have a tradition in Japan to use crafts and wear things like Kimono, which certain patterns so called Kisshō-Monyō (吉祥文様) – auspicious omens motives are applied. Beginning of new year is one of such moments.

There are several motives inspired by living creatures, such as fishes, animals, birds, plants, flowers and fruits, or tools used in a festivities. Living creatures such as dragon, phenix, crane or pine, bamboo, plum and more, often symbolize long lives, good harvest, blessing of rains, eternal love. These pattens are used as a motif of porcelains, lacquer wears or clothes (becomes kimono and obi).

Monyou coral

Monyou Dragon fly

It is unfortunate that the custom has been disappearing and it is not at least something we proactively enjoy in our lives.  We only see it in the formalized traditional events without paying too much attentions.

There are many kinds of particular patterns used for celebrating festivities but I would like to pick up a pattern called Hōrai-mon (蓬莱文) this time.

The concept of Hōraisan(蓬莱山) came from China. From 2500 years ago, people believed that there is a utopia island in the eastern see of China. Hōrai mountain is on the island where a legendary wizard lives who is no aging nor death. Hōrai mountain was also believed as high so to extend to the heaven. At the bottom of the mountain, there is a river where dragons live. On the top of the mountain, phenix that can climb to the heaven lives by eating peaches and peers.

houraisan Taikan Yokoyama

Hōraisan by Taikan Yokohama

Interestingly, at the era of the First Emperor of the Qin dynasty (秦始皇帝, BC259~), Hōraisan –  a utopia island was believed to be located where Japan is. The record said that the First Emperor of the Qin sent people to the island in far east to investigate the Utopia and there are more than 10 places that the Qin’s messengers visited in Japan from the north to the south.

Hōraisan that symbolize immortality evolved to be one of auspicious omens motives. Today we can find Hōraisan pattern in crafts, architectures, garden, paintings and fairly tales.


Houraisan Kimono

Hōraisan-mon consists pine trees, cranes, turtles and plum blossoms – those are all considered as auspicious. Hōrai mountain is built on the carapace of a turtle. it is therefore, even if one tries to capture the Utopia, it runs away quickly so that one can never be able to acquire it.

Cai Guo-Qiang’s Penglai/Hōrai at Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial 2015

In the centre pond of Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art / KINARE, a huge mountain was exhibited till September 27, 2015.

This mountain is the artwork, Penglai / Hōrai, by Cai Guo-Qiang (蔡國強),  an internationally acclaimed Chinese comtemporary artist. You may know him as a Creative director for the opening and closing ceremony of Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The theme of this dynamic installation is, as you can guess from the title of the artwork – Penglai/Hōrai, the legendary utopia island.

It is only a month from now to unveil the impressive solo exhibition “Cai Guo-Qiang : Penglai/Horai”.

Horaisan by Cai Guo-Qiang

Cali expressed humour and ironies in this installation by responding the recent source of tension around ‘islands’ among countries in East Asia. From the front, the island is covered by rich greenery trees and thousands of straw-made birds and objects are laid around the island. But going around the back,  one realizes that the island is just like a standing signboard.

Behind the Utopia

People dream of a Utopia. It is the same now as of old.  But if we are tenacious in our pursuit of capturing it, we will only get lost. Remember! a Utopia is on the carapace of a turtle! It just agilely escape and you may lose even a illusion of Utopia completely from your mind.



北斎 : Hokusai exhibition at Museum of Fine Arts Boston


Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) was the first Japanese artist to be internationally recognized, and he continues to inspire artists around the world. 

The exhibition is running  during April 5, 2015 – August 9, 2015 at Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Ann and Graham Gund Gallery (Gallery LG31)


Museum of Fine Arts Boston is the home of the largest and finest collection of Japanese art  outside Japan.

Kimono Promotion Yields to Outrage at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts

Claude Monet's La Japonaise

From The New York Times:
A promotion in which visitors posed in a kimono before a Monet painting was recast after protests surfaced online.

The article is here.

The recent removal of Makoto Aida’s artwork “檄” from Museum of Contemporary Art is a similar case. The art is 6 meter long white banner hanging from the ceiling, where he expresses his opinion toward the Ministry of Education by the bold touch of brush.  There was only one claim to the museum to conclude with this decision.

tumblr_Makoko Aida


I would like to close this blog with a famous quote of Voltaire, a French philosopher:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”



雨 Rain and Art

It has been almost one month since  visited Tokyo International Art Fair on May 23. There, one painting by the Australian artist, Joanna Blair caught my eyes. Rainy Reflection The title is “Rainy Reflection”. It is not that this painting is so spectacular or superior to other exhibited works. I reconfirmed how much I am fond of artworks that use ‘rain’ as a subject. After returning from 2 weeks trip to Europe, rainy season has already arrived to Tokyo. We will have this season till mid July for almost one month and it is not particularly a favorite seasons for anybody, but ‘Rain’ seems to be a favorite subject appeared in the world of art and literature in Japan. We have got a variety of words that describe different kind of rains in the time, in the season, by the length, or by the amount. The rain is also often used as a metaphor to describe our emotions and situations. Here, I would like to introduce some of art pieces that used rain as a motif. Hiroshige‘s Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi bridge and Atake (大はしあたけの夕立) is perhaps one of the most well known Japanese art piece featuring rain. sudden-shower-over-shin-ohashi-bridge-at-atake-from-one-hundred-views-of-edo-1856-colour-1856(1).jpg!Blog This is s a woodblock print in the ukiyo-e genre and was published in 1857 as part of the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. The print shows a small part of the wooden Ōhashi bridge crossing the Sumida River. Sudden showers of rain are depicted by using a large number of thin dark parallel lines in two direction. Six people are crossing the bridge sheltering under hats or umbrellas from the sudden shower of rain. It seems to hear the sound of intense rainfall. Rain is a typical theme of ukiyo-e. There are many other rain theme paintings as Hiroshige’s rain paintings. About 30 years after Hiroshima passed away, his works were introduced to the western world. The Paris Universal Exposition in 1867 was really the milestone event that unique Japanese art was discovered and widely recognized outside Japan. Hiroshige’s style to describe rain gave a great impact to European artists. Until then, there was no such techniques to describe rain by using lines. Van Gogh’s copy work,  “Japonaiserie:pont sous la pluie” in 1887 is well known example. van Goph's copy

via Van Gogh Museum

We can also observe the influence of the technique in the Daum brother‘s work.  They used many parallel thin lines to describe rain.

Daum brothersvia Belle des Belles France

Rain is also appeared as a favourite theme in Henri Cartier-Bresson, renowned French photographer’s work. He describes a slice of rainy day by effectively using a puddle and the reflection of light on a puddle and watery ground.

 Henri Cartier-BressonHenri Cartier Bresson

Rain could be scary. Even within doors, the loud sounds of water drops and thunders give us a visual cue of heavy rainy day. ‘Storm House’ is 5-10 minutes light and water installation done by the artist duo Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller by using a small traditional Japanese house on Teshima Island.

“The piece begins as the storm approaches, with no water hitting the windows, then proceeds to the incredibly loud, floor shaking climax. As the storm dissipates the sound of someone moving and coughing in the next room is heard and then the piece starts again.”

Rain could be annoying. I am not particularly fond of rainy day. But entertaining mind may be a good way out.

Let’s be blessed by rain!

Meeting with Ise-Katagami Artisan Isao Uchida (内田 勲)part 2


About 4 months ago, I visited Ise-Katagami artisan Isao Uchida in Shiroko and wrote about it here.  Today, there was a workshop with him in Tokyo and I had an another chance to hear his story. Artisan Uchida

The topic flew from his apprenticeship period to the rise and fall of katagami industry.

At the peak period during 1970-1975, he had orders of katagami (paper stencil) production as much as he couldn’t have enough time to sleep. Order mainly came from Kyoto, where had a demand for semi-formal kimonos for women.



For making one kimono, some dozens to hundreds of katagami are required. There was a middleman between a dyer and a katagami artisan and the final design and colors were not often fully shared, therefore, engraving the stencil by imagining how the colors and design patterns are combined was really a complex work. Good katagami artisan needs to be clever enough. The peak period was over after 5,6 years when Nylon made stencil took it over. Artisan Uchida will be 71 years old this year and he still feels he is inferior. Most of his junior left the business due to the fall in the industry.  He is one of the youngest among 20 some existing katagami artisans.


There are katagami, which even an accomplished artisan as Uchida highly appreciates. Such katagami has its hold on life. The drawn flowers and leafs are vivid and have vigor.

The patterns on katagami are so refined and tiny. It may be difficult to find such a difference in detail for an ordinary person.

In Japan, there is a saying, “what an artisan earns by day he spends by night”.  It is because an artisan becomes lazy and stop working once he earns enough money. If he stops working, he loses his touch. Therefore, he shouldn’t keep his earnings and continue to work to keep up his skills.


First step of making katagami is to develop ‘shouhon (小本)’, which is about the size of 12cmx12cm square.  Katagami patterns are repetition of this square. Artisan Uchida says that once he develops shouhon, a half of his work is over.

Until recently, the order of katagami development came from a middleman, therefore, it was often the case that a katagami artisan has never seen the final product-the dyed kimono with his katagami. But today, artisan Uchida tries to directly work with a dyer.

He created “Gonin-gumi (composed of 5 persons)” with other katagami artisans and dyers and develop kimono textiles together. I found this an interesting movement as producing kimono textiles used to be a role of kimono wholesale dealers and they were the one who took the most part of margins from the sales. Now they do not involve such dealers.

This initiative came from a compelling succession issue. There is no sufficient demand for katagami production as much as an artisan can live only relying on this.

When Artisan Uchida was still in his apprentice, his master earned good money as a katagami artisan. Artisan Uchida naturally desired to be like his master and it was his key motivation to eagerly learn and be the skillful artisan. But now, he can’t propose such a attractive vision to his apprentices, therefore, they do not put their effort to master skills.  If the current situation continues, the techniques of katagami artisan will definitely disappear soon. Artisan Uchida wants to present a new way of living as a katagami artisan through ‘Gonin-gumi”s initiative.

I recalled his words from my last visit to Shiroko.

“The technique, which has endured for about 1000 years, is about to run its course during our era. What we are charged to do is to cultivate our successors.”

More young Japanese has been showing interests in kimono, but the little increase won’t be able to cultivate enough demands to sustain the katagami industry.  The market is globe. Perhaps, foreign blood could discover completely new purposes of using the paper stencils skills and find a way to survive? My wishful thinking….


stripe patterns

Art Fair Tokyo: Browsing in the flood of arts

Similar to the well-known art fair as Art Basel in Switzerland, there was an art fair in Tokyo organized from 20 to 22 March, where many galleries from all over Japan and some foreign galleries exhibited art works at Tokyo Kokusai Forum. It was unfortunately just over today.


Visiting an art fair is beneficial in many ways.

1. Knowing your state of mind:

Browsing from one gallery to another, you would realize what kind of art piece you are particularly attracted. The same artwork could be perceived differently by reflecting your current state of mind. Your favorite could be differed from time to time.

2. People watching:

Just watching the type of visitors and exhibitors is interesting, their demographics and the type of fashion, etc.

3. Discover the special art that belongs to you:

Art piece is often one and only existence. There are so many diversified work exhibited but you may find unique and special piece that exist for you only one within.

There were so many pieces that caught my eyes, but I note some of them here for my memorandum.

Tomoo Gokita’s work, no title:

I could spend hours in front of this piece. This is a college of photos and drawings. Just looking at each frame was fascinating. Tomoo Gokita’s self-portrait is hidden at the right bottom corner. I am sure we will find something new every day with this piece.

Tomoo Gokita

Acid Bloom by Mika Ninagawa:

Mika Ninagawa Acid Bloom

Alona Harpaz exhibited by Israeli gallery 

Alona Harpaz1

Alona Harpaz2

Golden Manuscript A Golden Ballerinaa by Shiriagari Kotobuki

Shiriagari Kotobuki

Siesta by Teppei Ikehira:

I was so much attracted by the color and motif used in the drawing first, then saw the title “Siesta” that really made sense to me.


Dreaming by Ayumi Suzuki:

This is a work of young painter. I would love to have this in my house.

Mayumi Suzuki Dreaming

Pig with cherry by Akifumi Okumura

Cute! Lovely!

Pig, Akitumi Okumura

Searching for knowledge by Veronica Doers

Veronica is a German painter. She spent sometime in Kobe art village. I was captured by the surrealistic face.

Veronica Dobers Search for knowledge

French Bulldog by Ryuma Imai

I love French bulldog!

Ryuma Imai