‘Sorrow and Hope’ in the Wake of Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster
ROCK SPRINGS – The Art Gallery at Western Wyoming Community College will open its latest exhibit, ‘Sorrow and Hope’ from artists Kerstin Svanberg and Toshiko Watanabe, on Friday, March 4, at the Rock Springs campus. Both artists will be on campus the week of March 1 to install and will discuss their installation work and other works on Thursday, March 3. Svanberg will speak at 12:15 p.m. and Watanabe will speak at 2:30 p.m. The gallery installation is a reflection on the 2011 natural disasters and related nuclear plant failure that led to large-scale destruction and casualties in Japan. These presentations are free and open to the public
“Sorrow and Hope” takes impetus from the artists’ thoughts and emotions following the March 11, 2011, tragedy, in which the Tohoku Earthquake unleased a tsunami that severely disabled the Fukushima nuclear plant, which is situated on the coast. Watanabe, who is Japanese, notes in her statement that the tragedy and its aftermath made it “difficult to face my art.”
“One year later, in March 2012, I was scheduled to open a solo exhibition at a gallery in Ginza,” she recalls. “I began to work without a specific image; I decided just colors and movements. When the display of the work was finally finished at the gallery, I found big waves spreading, doubtlessly associated with the Tsunami. It was an exhibition in which the disturbance deepest in my mind came out.”
For Swedish paper artist Kerstin Svanberg, the black and blue hues in this installation represent the twin realities of sorrow and hope, both of which are intertwined throughout the legacy of the Tohoku earthquake and the Fukushima disaster.
“The black colour has often been used to represent sorrow and seriousness,” she says. “Blue symbolises truth, intellect, wisdom and hope. In Sweden, we are talking about ‘The Blue Flower of Hope.’ We must have Hope.”
“Sorrow and Hope” previously was exhibited at the Gallery Hinoki Plus in Tokyo in 2014. It marks the coalescence of two distinct artistic styles and media into a cohesive representation of sorrow, memory and hope. Svanberg’s medium is papermaking while Watanabe’s is Japanese painting done non-traditionally.
Yokohama University Professor Emeritus Kinoshita Nagahiro, who wrote the installation’s catalogue entry for its 2014 Hinoki show, notes the essential congruence between the two artists’ distinct but complementary styles: papermaking and Japanese methods of painting.
“The interest of both, Kerstin and Toshiko, concentrates on the materiality of plant life,” he writes. “Of course, their styles and methods are different, but the way of sublimating those materials to a work is similar. In the work, their interests are concealed; among their minds calmly emerges a kind of resonance. This resonance is probably a great reason to encourage them to organize this collaborated show .”
“Needless to say that this installation titled ‘Sorrow and Hope’ implies the memory of the tragedy of 11th March of 2011, the ‘Fukushima.’ It is the prayer expressed by Kerstin and Toshiko for this event,” Nagahiro goes on to explain. “The small blue islands floating on the stormy black sea suggest their sincere prayer in order to reconcile with the nature and to revive from the tragedy.”
Watanabe uses the traditional materials of Japanese painting – Indian ink, Japanese paints, gold and silver paper on Japanese paper – and employs the method of “dripping” ink and paints onto the paper. This, she says, allows her to “make use of the unconscious.”
“It is not possible that all my consciousness can vanish, but I want the least amount to show in the work,” Watanabe explains. “The third factor is the place. I work outside in my small yard under a cherry tree and an apricot tree. Sometimes petals of flowers, the autumn leaves, sometimes sunshine, cool wind, cold air – I believe all these natural phenomena affect and reflect in these works.”
Svanberg came to papermaking through her work with textiles. In papermaking, she is able to control the entire creative process from “collecting the raw material, beating the pulp, making the paper to transforming into an artwork. The process of art making in itself is a meditative activity, a creative flow.”
“Years of experience have released my own expression,” she states. “The inherent movement of the shrinkage from well-hydrated pulps as well as layer by layer of different beatings of more or less shrinking pulps give me endless possibilities for my 2-D and 3-D works. Repetition, both in theme and form, is central.”
Both Svanberg and Watanabe have exhibited in their home countries and internationally. Svanberg received a Certificate of Award from the Jong Ie Nara Paper Art Museum and Paper Culture Foundation in Seoul, South Korea, in 2011. Watanabe’s work is part of public collections in the Arany Yanos Memorial Museum in Nagyszalonta, Romania, and in the Hisa Layer in Kranj, Slovenia.
Artists Kerstin Svanberg and Toshiko Watanabe to Discuss Their Work March 3
The WWCC Art Gallery is pleased to present the installation exhibit “Sorrow and Hope,” from artists Toshiko Watanabe and Kerstin Svanberg, running from Friday, March 3, through Thursday, April 21, at the Rock Springs campus. Western is pleased to welcome both artists to campus on Thursday, March 3, for a presentation and discussion of their work. This event will be held in Room 1120 but will begin in the Art Gallery and is free and open to the public.