Variations in Nature: A Group Show of Six Japanese Painters

May 15 – June 6, 2008

Gallery Sakiko is pleased to present a group show entitled Variations in Nature, which features paintings by six contemporary Japanese artists: Asako Akabane, Etsuko Nishiyama, Takiko Umei, Hitomi Watanabe, Setsuko Nakanura, and Haruyo Kominami.

Though inspired by nature and representational in their approach, the works on display combine a contemporary aesthetic with the traditions found in Japanese, as well as Chinese calligraphy, scroll painting and printmaking. The works do not only focus on nature as the key subject, but they also employ its very materials. All of the works have been executed with traditional Japanese painting materials and techniques. Japanese painting colors are made from pigments mixed with animal collagen glue. Iwa enogu is a ground natural rock pigment and Suihi Enogu, which can be translated as “washed color” is an earth color pigment, for example. Gofun, made from ground oyster shell and animal glue is used for priming, as well as the build up of relief work. In addition, gold and silver leaf, powered gold paint, as well as Japanese papers and silks are frequently recurring materials.

A strong visual component in this exhibition is the work with Sumi, a charcoal that is produced by firing certain species of hardwood such as cedar, cypress, oak or bamboo. It refers to the ink used for writing with a writing brush, particularly in calligraphy, a style that is called Sumi-e. The Philosophy of Sumi-e is contrast and harmony, expressing simple beauty and elegance. The balance and integration of these forces and the eternal interaction of Yin Yang are the ultimate goal of Sumi-e. As is the tradition in Japanese brush painting, the six artists here aim to depict the spirit, rather than the semblance, of their subject. They attempt to capture the Chi or "life spirit" of their subjects and strive for balance, rhythm and harmony, using the brush with both vitality and restraint.