Anna R Lee



Feature

KAMI: ELEMENTAL SPIRITS OF NATURE
By Pamela Peeters, in collaboration with Kaoru Oguro


Since ancient times, the Japanese people have believed in the existence of Kami – elemental spirits that inhabit the mountains, seas, forests, and rivers as well as plants and trees. When walking in the countryside, one often comes across shrines dedicated to the natural power of the forests or seas, where these elemental spirits, both good and evil, are worshiped as gods. A talented sculptor, NOGUCHI Harumi creates images of some of these countless elemental spirits and has presented thirty of them in her first exhibition outside Japan, at Ippodo Gallery in Chelsea. Sustainable Styles attended the opening and met with the artist, whose first statue was a werewolf, itself a deity.


- NOGUCHI Harumi -

“In the shade of the trees of the forest at noon,

at the edge of the green marshes,

in the winds that create waves in forests, mountains and seas,

or in the thunder and lightening that flashes through the sky,

I am able to discern the fondly-remembered, yet frightening members

of this supernatural race.

Theirs are the images I want to bring out through my work in clay."


NOGUCHI has possessed a strange sensitivity since childhood. As she explained it, her artistry is about tapping into the power of nature. Through her work, she achieves a state of “nothingness” and invites others to feel what she experiences when she creates. To her, there is an “other,” higher side of nature relating to the energy around you.

Having spent her childhood days in tune with nature, NOGUCHI grew to love its soul. After the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, she felt called on to create these works. This disaster demonstrated how nature, which brings blessings to all life on Earth, also possesses a terrible power. Contemporary society, sad to say, has a similar destructive power. The steady pollution of the seas and the shrinking of the forests have led to the disappearance of the gods who inhabited them and the destruction of their spirits.

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Born in Tokyo in 1954, NOGUCHI loved from an early age to read myths, legends, and fairy tales, developing a view of nature that resonates with some of Japan's earliest known writings, the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters, 712 A.D.) and Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan, 720 A.D.). As a child she created an imaginary world in which the characters of myths and legends were her friends. She played with the spirits that inhabited the huge trees around her, and whenever she stepped into the sea or a river, she believed she was in direct contact with the god of water. When asked what her favorite kami is, the answer is undeniably AZUMI-No-Isora – better known as the Kami of the Seashore.

Her material is a blend of clay with a high iron content, from the Shigaraki (Shiga prefecture) and other areas, which is then given a coating of white slip. The works do not have an internal structure, she explains. She does not plan each work, but rather it takes its shape from the rhythmical movements of her fingers. The clay takes on a life of its own, allowing for the gods and spirits to become embodied in this world.

NOGUCHI did not begin to work in ceramics until she was in her 40s, when one day she produced a small mask and showed it to the owner of the Ippodo Gallery. AONO Keiko was fascinated by the sublime spirituality it expressed and wanted to discover what else was dormant in NOGUCHI's subconsciousness. Fate probably brought them together with NOGUCHI possessing an awe of the elemental spirits of nature and AONO being very proud by the Japanese way in which nature is incorporated in people's daily lives.

As a result of their meeting, NOGUCHI began to produce three-dimensional, clay sculptures - images of Japanese gods, sacred beasts, ogres, and other creatures that can now be passed on to future generations.

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Her exhibition at Ippodo Gallery in New York was filled with a feeling of gratitude toward nature and a prayer to life, and her art serves as a monument to highlight the problems facing the world today. The Museum of Arts and Design ( MAD ) in New York already included three pieces from the show in its past exhibition "Beauty in All Things." We at Sustainable Styles understand why.

More information: www.ippodogallery.com and www.madmuseum.org



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