Throughout the month of May, Arts Visalia is proud to feature artworks by artist Reiko Yoshimoto in an exhibition titled “Painting with Paper.” The title of the exhibition stems from the method of art that is employed in the majority of the works on display. Known as chigiri-e, it is a collage process where the image is composed of pieces of colored paper, as opposed to paint.
Chigiri-e, pronounced “chee-gee-ree-eh,” is a traditional Japanese art form dating from the Heian Period, 794 to 1185 AD. The Heian period was a very rich age for Japanese poetry, literature and art. The word “chigiru” means to tear and “e” is an image, therefore an image produced by tearing pieces of specially made and dyed paper, washi. Yoshimoto started taking classes in chigiri-e in 1993 and she continues to attend classes while perfecting the technique. Much of Reiko’s work reproduces the classic art of many artists, but in the medium of torn paper.
The technique of chigiri-e uses the unique characteristics of the washi paper, taking advantage of its texture, malleability, coloring and ductile properties to produce a “collage.” The artist, using her hands, tears, wets, twists, stretches, separates fibers and applies the worked paper on to another surface, traditionally paper scrolls or other paper media. Many works of chigiri-e, including those in this exhibition, appear from a distance to be watercolors, but upon close examination, the “paper” qualities become apparent. Flowers or plant images are typical and traditional subjects, and many such works are included in this show.
Also showcased in this exhibition are works in the Bunka Shishu method of Japanese embroidered art, a method that dates back to the early 20th century. Included in the Bunka works by Yoshimoto in the exhibition are a wonderful group of reproductions of woodblock print images by the renowned woodblock artist Ando Hiroshige.
Reiko Nakamura Yoshimoto was born in 1928 in Hiroshima, Japan, and attended schools in Japan through high school. At a very early age, she was recognized for her artistic ability. In 1945, while in high school, she experienced and survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
After World War II ended, she met Tadato Jim Yoshimoto, a U.S. Army Sergeant from Los Angeles stationed in Japan serving on General MacArthur’s staff. In 1950 they were married and moved to the United States upon Jim’s discharge. They had two children, Bill and Grace. Many folks locally will know her son Bill as the former Assistant District Attorney in Tulare County and as a pastor at Gateway Church.
“Painting with Paper” will be on display at Arts Visalia from April 30 through May 30th with an opening reception to be held on the evening of Friday, May 2nd from 6-8pm. Arts Visalia is located in downtown Visalia at 214 E. Oak Ave. and is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 5:30pm. For more information, visit www.artsvisalia.org or call 739-0905.
Kevin Bowman is the director of Arts Visalia and an instructor of art at College of the Sequoias.