The Fate of the Arts   /   Summer 2004   /    Interviews

Interview with Artist Makoto Fujimura

You use an ancient Japanese technique, Nihonga, in your painting. Could you describe it? Why have you chosen to paint in this ancient style?

I studied in Japan (my roots are there, but I was born in Boston) from 1986–1992 under the curriculum of Nihonga. I received my MFA in Nihonga at Tokyo National University, and I was the first foreign-born student to be selected to their post-MFA doctoral-level program. The Nihonga technique, which has evolved over 1500 years of Japanese art, uses natural materials such as pulverized azurite, malachite, gold, and silver on handmade, heavy rag paper. The materials are mixed with animal skin glue as a medium. I was immediately drawn to these materials. I had previously painted in oil and watercolor, but wanted to work on a large scale using a water-based medium and paper.

The minerals, when layered in the correct manner, can refract, as each individual granule acts as a prism, so the surface traps light. This subtle, quiet way of capturing light intrigued me. I see in the very process of painting a parable of life: how our lives, too, need to be refractive of light as people created in God’s image. How often do we experience grace in the midst of trial (as our lives are being “pulverized” to reveal inner beauty)?

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