Interview: Award Winning Artist Gen Miyamura At ICN Gallery “Image Langue: Linear Code”
“Image Langue: Linear Code” ICN gallery 19 January – 22 February 2012
The latest exhibition at the ICN gallery in London entitled “Image Langue: Linear Code” is perhaps the most intriguing so far. Award winning contemporary artist Gen Miyamura presents an innovative definition to his Bokusho (abstract expressionist calligraphy) art works as the alphabet and attempts to give Sho (calligraphy) new meaning.
It may at first sound like a complicated linguistic system, but in fact, it’s actually quite straightforward. Each Linear Code represents a letter of the alphabet, and by placing these letters/Linear’s together to make a word, a pattern is formed. You can try it yourself using your name – what kind of configuration will it make?
There is also the Dot Code. Each dot represents a word with meaning and when these words are put together to form a collage their meaning becomes stronger.
However, you don’t have to be able to read the Linear and Dot Codes in this way to appreciate Miyamura’s work. Each singular Linear piece can be valued as a piece of art and designs like “Universe” are marvellous as is. But a deeper understanding leads to a deeper appreciation, therefore, it’s well worth delving a little deeper.
On Saturday 21st January, a few hours before he flew back to Japan, Mr. Miyamura kindly gave up some of his time at the gallery to be interviewed and explains the techniques he used to create these intriguing images.
Please explain a little about the technique you used for the Linear Codes.
The technique is called decalcomania – a process that uses two mediums and the power of friction to create, so this is not used with the brush as in traditional calligraphy. An acrylic board and ink and the friction between the board and paper creates these kinds of images – one movement.
With traditional calligraphy there are often random splashes of ink left on the paper caused by the movement of the brush and similarly slight unsystematic ink splashes can be seen on the Linear code prints. So, with these kinds of unpredictable markings appearing on the finished artwork how much control do you actually have over the end product?
Well, the technique is quite similar to the brush in that there is only one stroke, one moment. The only thing I can control is the amount of ink I use, the power of friction and the time.
So, again, as with traditional calligraphy, each of your pieces is unique in that sense because you cannot duplicate the ink splashes?
Ah yes. I produced a couple of hundred pieces and I chose about forty to be used for this exhibition.
Have you ever been met with much hostility from traditional calligraphers?
It happens quite often in Japan, but I am not affected by it, I don’t take it personally. I see the two techniques as being parallel with each other and should go hand-in-hand and develop. I don’t see them as two different art forms.
When did you first start experimenting with Bokushu (abstract expressionist calligraphy)?
About seven years ago when I was about 24, after I had just finished my Master’s Degree in Sho.
Is there a Zen-like philosophy behind what you are doing?
I wasn’t really brought up in a philosophical environment, but Sho and Zen philosophy go hand in hand, you can’t really separate them, so it is always in my consciousness, the awareness of Zen philosophy.
Your artwork entitled “Universe” resembles a Zen symbol called enso. Within Zen Buddhism the circular symbol is depicted as either a complete circle or an incomplete circle. Why did you decide to create your image as an incomplete circle?
I wanted to work within the time dimension. With a complete circle you cannot see where it starts and were it ends. So I chose an incomplete circle so you can see where it starts and where it ends. Each dot that makes up the “Universe” was painted as an individual piece, each representing a particular word. For instance, one dot means ‘breath’ because breathing is the essence of life, breathing in and breathing out. I then put them together on the computer and arranged them in a specific order to form the large circle.
Do you find that some people believe they think they know and understand you through your art work, but in fact they’re completely wrong about you?
I don’t particularly want people to understand me through my art work, I’d rather withdraw into the background and let the art speak for itself.
This being your first exhibition outside of Japan what kind of thoughts will you take back with you?
I think people in the West are more perceptive of contemporary Sho-style, more so than those in Japan. People in Japan are less likely to understand it because they are brought up and educated more in the way of the traditional style and will naturally think in that frame. Whereas here, you don’t have that connection in your culture and therefore are quite free to perceive it anyway you want.
Is there anything you would like to add before we conclude?
I’d just like to say that Shodo is using the system of letters and characters and the techniques, the frame and rules to express it. On the other side you have the language, the wording and the culture behind each word. What I am more interested in is combining these and to break out of the rules. So I would like to incorporate meaning of the words into Shodo. Like the roman alphabet, on their own the letters have no meaning in themselves until they are put together to make a word. I haven’t created a new language as such but have borrowed these systems to try and create a new expression out of that.
Thank you very much, Mr. Miyamura.
Special thanks to interpreter Yulia Herzog.