Wabi Sabi in Japanese Art and Paper Making

Wabi Sabi is a concept of Japanese aesthetics that is expressed through the integrity of hand-made process and nature. Wabi Sabi aesthetic is characterized by imperfection, incompleteness and ever-changing. Through collaborating with many Japanese artists at the International Art Festival in Toyota Civic Center of Aichi prefecture, I became more fascinated with Wabi Sabi aesthetic in Japanese art and design.

Well-known artist Satoru Kato, a practitioner of Ikebana, uses natural materials such as straws, stones, wooden sticks, flowers, etc to create mesmerizing and impermanent installation. He described his work as “making spaces” by “sacrificing the lives of plants in order to give new life to the surroundings.” At the exhibition,  Mr. Kato created a large wall installation using dry straws and dyed sponges in about 6 hours.

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Satoru Kato working on his large installation at International Art Festival at Toyota Civic Center

Artists Hisashi Kano and Tomomi Kano created an ephemeral display of whispering dresses using Washi paper/fabric that were hand-made. They used one of the most traditional techniques that were passed down in the family at their studio in Obara. Mr. Kano said that their intention was to create a new textile for clothing that was effortless, nonrestrictive and free. They used three different types of fiber, including Kozo fiber, to make the paper that is soft and super strong. Hisashi Kano’s father, Toshiharu Kano is a very well-known artist who has exhibited around the world. I was very fortunate to visit Toshiharu Kano and his family at their home studio. Toshiharu’s teacher is Fujii Tatsukichi, one of the most important figure in the contemporary arts and crafts in Japan.

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Artists Hisashi Kano and Tomomi Kano’s installation at International Art Festival at Toyota Civic Center
Mr. Kano holding up a bundle of Hibiscus root that has been soaked in water at his home studio
Mr. Kano held up a bundle of Hibiscus roots that had been soaked in water for a year at his family studio
Mrs. Kano holding up sheets of Washi paper that are hand made at the family studio.
Mrs. Kano displayed sheets of Washi paper that were hand made at the family studio
Details of hand-made Washi paper, The texture was created by spraying the water on the wet paper during paper making
Details of hand-made Washi paper. The texture was created by sprinkling the water on the wet paper during paper making process

Artist and professor Koji Shibazaki and his student Suzuki Mikako created a serene lighted spatial installation. Professor Shibazaki teaches art and design at Aichi Prefecture University of Fine Arts and Music, a state funded public university in Aichi. Professor Shibazaki’s lighted work is also made of Washi paper, some of them were hand-made in his studio. His intention is to “rekindle the aesthetic sense” found in traditional Japanese houses with fusuma and shoji. Professor Shibazaki’s said that Escher inspired the patterns and illusions found in his lighted work. Suzuki Mikako used silkscreen method to create her intricate wall mural pieces. The simple geometric forms are silkscreened onto hand-made Washi paper in either gold and silver, creating an interesting shimmering under Shibazaki lamps.

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Professor Koji Shibazaki and his student Suzuki Mikako’s installation at the International Art Festival at Toyota Civic Center
Detail of Professor Shibazaki's lighted art
Detail of Professor Shibazaki’s lighted art
Professor Shibazaki at his paper making studio
Professor Shibazaki at his paper making studio
Professor Shibazaki's paper is made from the plants found in his farm and outside of his studio on Aichi University of the Arts campus. The paper showed here is made of Mirabilis Jalapa flower and Kozo
Professor Shibazaki’s paper is made from the plants found on his farm and outside of his studio on Aichi University of the Arts campus. The paper showed here is made of Mirabilis Jalapa flower and Kozo

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