“Falling Painting”

When I introduce myself I would say, I graduated from an art college in Japan with a PhD in oil painting and now am working as a practicing artist. Yet, sometimes I do not feel entirely comfortable with connotations of the sentences, as I feel that they are, somewhat, not representing what I really am.

To be more specific, I am even troubled with the word “art” in Japanese (美術), as it connotes restrictive implications, more so than what the word “art” implies in English. That said, for the time being, I accept this term in Japanese as a given, otherwise, I cannot even begin to form my argument since I do think and speak about art primarily in Japanese.

In Japan, oil painting, Japanese painting, sculpture, craft, design, and calligraphy, they are often treated separately as independent disciplines. Despite that, when one looks at what has been produced by contemporary artists these partitions and categorisations seem quite obsolete and no longer relevant.

As I live in the highly organized modern society where we have to identify ourselves in some way, I often find myself in a situation where I am forced to speak about my field of expertise as a way of introducing myself. While I do accept the customary practice, I often feel confused and bewildered, being unable to find appropriate words to describe what I do.

So far I have been in similar situations on more than a few occasions. People have asked me: “What kind of art are you making?” “Why are you making embroideries, even though you graduated from the oil painting course?” “So are you working in the field of textile design?” When I have to introduce myself by referring to a predefined field of discipline, I cannot find the right word to describe my work, which is not painting, sculpture, or craft.

Indeed, this is quite troubling. Even if I manage to explain myself to people, it is always, a kind of, a temporal statement and not a definitive answer. Furthermore, it is, at times, even humiliating to me.

Over the centuries, various artefacts have been produced in many parts of the world and they came in varying forms and shapes. Such objects are, for example, tools to produce more things, a gift for someone, and decorations to brighten up the mood of people. Of course, they include works of art, and they also carry immense multiplicity in terms of times, religions, climates, and rulers that were involved in the production of those art pieces.

I would say that I have read the fairly large number of books about patterns, decorations, tools, and art. Based on my observation, it can be said that they usually explain when the objects were made, what purposes those artefacts were created for, and their functions, in addition to their backgrounds and even hypotheses as to uncovered mystery about them. However, more often than not, they do not explain the fundamental reasons why they were born at the very beginning and the enigma of why people started making things, the unexplainable birth of culture.

Nonetheless, I cannot stop thinking about the bittersweet question as to the reasons why humans started making things. Things that stir up my imagination are perhaps merely pertinent to one fleeting moment. Any explanation as to that special yet ephemeral moment is actually often redundant, and it rather undermines the mystique around the magical moment of the creative tension once existed when an object was created.

The work that has been exhibited at Contemporary Art Museum Kumamoto on this occasion has the embroideries with reference to various objects of the past. As it can be seen in the plan sketch shown in the catalogue, the embroideries have a wide variety of designs, which have been inspired by many sources, such as pleats of clothes found in a masterpiece, ancient fabric patterns, illustrations found in knitting books, figures showing cat’s cradle, ancient embroideries, statues of an indigenous God in a small provincial village, folds of a God’s clothes that many people worshiped in the past, decorations of ceramics, ancient Chinese paintings of landscapes, a king’s treasure, and clay figurines. As mentioned earlier, they have been chosen based on my imagination about that single moment of haphazard creativity. Though it may sound contradictory, I have chosen this method precisely because of the reliability latent in the arbitrariness of the method.

A thread of the embroidery extends over to the backside of the cloth without a break, forming another cluster on the reverse side. What I suggest is not such a simple thing as the idea that everything has the same root. However, what is important to me is to create an apparatus of some sort that shows another aspect of creativity that involves the transformation of things through the imagination about that fleeting moment when a thing emerges, regardless of whether they are noble or not, with a name or without, historic or otherwise.

The next work that I am planning on making is a piece that has a relationship in terms of its content, in which, metaphorically speaking, ends of a thread melt into each other.


Aiko Tezuka
in Kyoto in 2010,
“Textiles for Festivals and Prayers,” Contemporary Art Museum Kumamoto