The Space Between – Chapman Gallery, 2012

The Space Between – Japan, a Series

For as long as I can remember I have had a strong, intrinsic affinity with Japan yet until recently I had never been there.

The trip that inspired the works for ‘The Space Between’ had it’s origin’s whilst visiting France in mid 2010. I was introduced to a wonderful Japanese artist, who lives in Paris. She was instrumental in orchestrating the trip I made to Japan in December 2010 with my daughter, Mim, and arranged for us to visit the famous 14th century monastery in Kyoto, Daitoku-ji. The Temple of Daitoku-ji covers 23 hectares and is linked with the master of the Tea ceremony Sen no Rikyu. We were privileged to meet with Zen Buddhist Monk, Siezan Toda who ever so kindly showed us through the monastery. We were taken to places usually unseen by tourists, such as exquisite Zen gardens, Nightingale floors and interiors with amazing hand painted screens. When Siezan chanted in his world-renowned voice it felt as if time had stopped. The vibration of his voice went through my body, altering perceptions of time and space.

My friend also organised for us to stay with a traditional Japanese family in the mountains of the south island of Kyushu, whose lineage is greatly involved with the Tea Ceremony. The house was complete with sliding doors, a stone garden and a special room for the tea ceremony. We were kindly invited to partake in the Tea Ceremony and spent two wonderful intricate hours putting on the layers of antique Kimonos that were required. We were looked after so hospitably by both the family and by a beautiful young Japanese woman, who kindly acted as a translator.

The sacred mountains in this area of Heiki -Zan inspired several paintings in the exhibition. Tokyo with Mt. Fuji being ever present also played on my imagination. The incredible lights of Tokyo revealed an intensity of colour and tonal variation I have never experienced. I have attempted to convey this sensation in a series of urban nightscapes. Also in this series is the steamy restaurant scene in the Arashiyama district and a Geisha’s house in the Gion area of Kyoto.

Even though Mt Fuji has been drawn and painted countless times, I decided

to paint it yet again.  The dormant volcano’s majestic presence is literally breath-taking, the proportions and form mesmerising. This inspired me to investigate the mystique and atmosphere surrounding Mt. Fuji through paint. In doing so I have created a small series of works where the two themes running through the exhibition collide in a nighttime cityscape-meets-mountain, titled ‘Mountain and City’.

Formally, in the larger works I played with the use of a limited tonal palette so as to give each work a particular atmosphere, which is created by the chosen colour’s inherent emotive value.  I have also been investigating how a range of grey tones and their modulations can temper and harmonise with large areas of saturated colour.  Colour and its use is a never-ending source of fascination for me.

I hope this small explorative exhibition of Japan’s mountains and urban environment will offer an insight into Japan, enabling the viewers to share the appreciation for the ambience that captivated me.

Jill Kempson 2012