Monday, 11 May 2009


'Star Light'. 1998

I have long been an admirer of Shihoko Fukumoto's work. I saw this piece, 'Star Light', 1998 at 'Collect' a couple of years ago. It is just as radiant in reality.

She was born in Osaka, Japan in 1945 becoming a fine artist but found that she was unhappy with the medium of paint and went on to study the art of using Indigo. She achieves astonishing gradations in colour and effects of luminosity, her imagery often incorporating the moon and water. Blending the traditional Japanese craft of Indigo dyeing 'shibori' and tonal gradation dyeing 'bokashi', Fukumoto creates subtle works of transcendent beauty.

'Aoi Kioku', 1996 'Tiny points of light divided by a large central panel of light'.

She considers indigo is more than just a colour, it is the colour of space, of a feeling of the ethereal, of the spiritual.

To stop the contamination of the whites when creating her pieces, she hangs her work on a pole with the white uppermost and washes it with a hose. Light is crucial to an understanding of Fukumoto's work, a paradox given indigo's vulnerability to sunlight. Nevertheless, Fukumoto developed a special technique to prevent it from fading under exposed conditions.

On a trip to New Guinea, Shihoko saw the craftspeople making things which were linked to their culture and their religion. She realised she was merely imitating Western Art. She says "Indigo cast a marvelous spell over me", and of course indigo has deep roots in Japanese culture. She made many of her own tools.

Fukumoto's fabric works have a remarkable, delicate beauty. To the Westerner, their perfection
is as unapproachable and dreamlike as the vision of Japan from which they spring.
'The Constellation', 1998 Indigo dyed on Turfan cotton.

One can see the spirituality of the universal space in this piece, 'The Constellation', with its vibrant star bursts and varying blues.

Part of my research has been to explore 'blacks'. This came from the vision of 'The Cosmos' or 'Universal Space' during meditation, a soft dark bluey, purply black so I feel an empathy with this piece. My explorations have also included the dark and light, balance and space and asymmetric placing of design.

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