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  • Writer's picturekarenbagayawa

Three Mentors and a Coffee Shop

In my last year of University my work consisted of layered surfaces of plaster and saturated paint, cheesecloth and textured surfaces. After University, I accepted a job in Northern Japan teaching Kindergarten children English through art activities. I continued working on a body of work in hopes of one day having my first Solo Exhibition in Japan.

During my five year stay, I met many artists, met my husband and continued working on my work. I look back now and I feel that Japan was key in shaping the work that I produce now. I believe that simply diving into our genuine passions keep the work personalized and creative discipline allow the work to evolve on a regular basis. Mentors or other artists who share the same sensibilities are also key. I have been fortunate enough to have many mentors in my life that have always passed on their words of wisdom. In Japan I was fortunate to have three mentors who taught me the importance of finding who you are as an artist. At our monthly visits to their studio spaces and coffee shops they shared many stories and many personal experiences as working artists and I thank them for their guidance. A printmaker - Shegheki Tomura, a painter - Eiichi Sugimura and a painter and printmaker - Hisashi Momose. All were forty years older and have been professional artists for more then two decades.

Eiichi Sugimura grew up in a small fishing town and was fascinated with the ocean, the colour turquoise, ultramarine blue and collecting beehives. His warm smile and caring demeanor were contagious. His paintings evoked a strange sense of calmness and in others a sense of claustrophobia. Sugimura-san's studio had quite high ceilings and as you looked upward you couldn't help but feel a little bit anxious as the ceiling was covered in abandoned beehives. He was fascinated with beehives - small and large and had an enormous collection of them.

Hisashii Momose was obsessed with colour gradation and the patterned grid. He implied printmaking and painting techniques onto hand made Japanese rice paper. His studio was filled with trinkets from the hyaku yen shop (the japanese dollar store) all placed in a preferred coloured order. On one shelf, Sir Isaac Newton's colour wheel of rubber bouncy balls, and on another a gradiant of white to black polished stones. Momose-san had a keen sense and passion for colour and expressed how "colour is always moving or vibrating, it is never still."

Shigheki Tomoura was a printmaker who loved nature. As a little boy he wanted to become two things: an artist and an astronaut. He lived behind a quiet and secluded forest where he walked through everyday before he worked on his prints. "The mind and body are one" he would say, "how can one make wonderful work if they are not mentally and physically well...exercise and discipline are key to one's artistic practice and success". He was obsessed with the printmaking techniques of the Old Masters. When looking at his prints you felt like you were walking with him in the same forest, experiencing the same emotions he did that day. Tomura-san's prints evoked such a strong sense of silence and awe. These three artists all shared their passions with me and enabled me to learn the importance of finding one's genuine passions in art making. I am deeply grateful for their teachings.

Ebb and Flow Series: Cobalt and Ultramarine Blue. Mixed media. 33" x 65". 2020

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