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A printmaker's progress


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Tuesday Tales – Morning Tea


Ocha No Asa, center

Ocha No Asa, center

                                                                                  Fuji cools the sky
                                                                          Reflected in the rice fields
                                                                                            I sip my o-cha

Ocha No Asa (Morning Tea) is an artist book I made a few years back. It is quite a complex piece which depicts one of my favorite subjects, tea, in one of my favorite places, Japan. The tea cups above and below are shaped after some I bought in Japan. These above are placed on a backdrop of Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest and most famous mountain. Its peak was visible from my first apartment in Tokyo, rising gloriously over the cityscape in the most amazing sunsets.

The calligraphy panels on either side are reminiscent of waka, classical Japanese poetry that is visually evocative and often difficult to decifer for the artistic rendering of the words.

Ocha No Asa, center

Ocha No Asa, center

The front panels of the book, see below, echoes the noren, or divided hangings, found at the entrance of restaurants. The circle is a common symbol found on noren. These panels are meant to open and invite you in for a cup of tea.

Ocha No Asa, front

Ocha No Asa, front

The back of the book features two more cups, collaged handmade papers and the title of the book in both Romaji and Japanese hiragana.

Ocha No Asa, back view

Ocha No Asa, back view

Ocha No Asa, back

Ocha No Asa, back

Ocha No Asa, an 8″x7″ artist book, is offered this week for $150. You can contact me at chiarina@chiarina.com for further info or to purchase.

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Tuesday Tales – Tsukubai


Tsukubai

Tsukubai

A tsukubai is a small basin usually set at the entrance to Buddhist temples and gardens in Japan. They are meant for a ritual washing of the hands as an act of purification, often before entering into the tea ceremony room. The use of natural materials, such as stone for the basin and bamboo for the cups and cup rests reflect the Buddhist appreciation for nature. The low height of the basin requires the visitor to crouch thereby encouraging humility and reverence. In fact the word tsukubai means “to crouch”. Sometimes the water for a tsukubai will be piped in through a bamboo reed, the shishi-odoshi, which falls onto another levered piece of bamboo that, when filled drops down and then rebounds with a clack onto the stone. The repetition of this sound of water falling and the sharp clap has a meditative effect. It’s power is shown famously in the beautifully filmed fight scene from the movie, Kill Bill, below. You can hear the shishi-odoshi at the start of the scene and it gains prominence around the 5 minute mark.

The tsukubai in my piece was shot in Japan when I lived there. The photograph was very dark but I loved the composition with the criss-crossing lines and reflections. The darkness of the image allowed me to bring up lots of texture which was enhanced by the single exposure technique I used in creating the photo etching plate. Inking the plate had its own challenges for both lights and darks were washed out and I had to paint some of the lines and color back in. This resulted in a more painterly and abstracted image in the final print which I am quite happy with.

Tsukubai is a 9″x12″ mixed-media monoprint wrapped around an 8″x10″x1.5″ board, so the edges of the image are on the sides of the board, as shown below.

Tsukubai

Tsukubai

It is offered this week for $100. Please contact me at chiarina@chiarina.com to purchase or for further info.


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Tuesday Tales – Persimmon


Persimmon

Persimmon

November is persimmon season for me. As a child I was accustomed to seeing the mediterranean ones in the grocery stores, the big oval shaped squishy ones that I never really developed a fondness for. When I lived in Japan, however, I was introduced to their fuyu persimmons, a non astringent variety that is edible when still firm. Not only is the texture of the fuyu wonderfully crunchy but the taste is divine.

While in Japan I  also became aquainted with the persimmon tree. It is a wide, bushy tree with large floppy leaves that turn the most extraordinary colors in the fall. Once the leaves fall the tree is left with an adornment of bright orange persimmons looking like miniature pumpkins that is quite a lovely and singular sight to behold. Even in the big concrete metropolis that is Tokyo these lovely persimmon trees could be seen everywhere poking out over walls and fences, announcing the final fall harvest.

Fuyu persimmons and their trees can be found all over North America now, and several years ago when I had a large garden I planted a tree and waited patiently for the fruit to come. It took eight years for the first fruit to grow and when they did I made sure I photographed their beauteous bounty. The watercolour at the top is one I made from that first harvest. While most of the painting is watercolour I included some sumi ink work to connect the piece to my time spent in Japan, where I first fell in love with this tree and its fruit.

Persimmon, an 11″x14″ watercolor and ink painting, is offered this week at $200. You can contact me at chiarina@chiarina.com for further information or to purchase.


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Tuesday Tales – A Balancing Act


In Good Company

In Good Company

The Japanese love odd numbers and things off center. When I first lived in Tokyo many years ago I immediately fell in love with their pottery and china but couldn’t fathom why their tea and dinner sets came in groups of five. I thought how awkward this would be for entertaining. Do they have gatherings of two couples with a child or a single person? Is that last place at a table for six always left empty? Or do they buy double sets of everything? They didn’t seem to have particularly large families, or dinner tables for that matter. Quite the opposite. Most Japanese families were small and living in cramped quarters. I soon learned that the number four in Japanese is synonymous with death so that number is avoided. But why five and not six? I received no clear explanation on that. Some said it was to avoid divisible numbers, especially with gift giving, for to be divisible means to be more easily broken. Others claimed this was the ideal family size.

Then came the study of ikebana. I now had to learn to arrange flowers of vastly uneven lengths in odd shaped vases and tilted at extreme angles, all held together in the tiny circle or square of the sharply needled kenzan. While confusing at first, it developed my appreciation for the beauty and the delicate balance of its minimalist design.

In fact I Iearned that balance was key in many aspects of Japanese life, and it was not rooted in evenness or stability but in a dynamic interplay of all things. I brought those lessons to my own life and my own art, and I have learned that the greatest harmony and beauty is achieved not when we have our feet planted firmly on the ground but when we embrace the mutability and precariousness of life.

In the piece above I tried to infuse that sense of delicate harmony and pay tribute to my Japanese sensei. There are five cups but not all the same. The teapot is mirrored with the ghostly presence of another, for comfort is closely tied to the knowledge and memory of treasured traditions. The vertical elements are reminiscent of Japanese scrolls and banners. The colors in the piece are the subdued tones seen in much Japanese art both past and present.

In Good Company, a 12″x16″ monotype, is offered this week for $250, unframed. You can contact me at chiarina@chiarina.com to purchase or for further information.