DAILY DOSE OF ART

As prescribed by Paulina Constancia

The KATANA Art of Nalu Miyamoto 1: Princess Kicho Nohime

Welcome to a new week here on DDoA! We continue with our love month’s feature on female foreign artists in Singapore who are truly passionate about their art form. 

This week I bring you Japanese artist Nalu Miyamoto and her Katana Paper Cutting Art. I met Nalu through another Japanese artist Kozue (January featured artist on DDoA).  When I found out that she uses a ‘deadly tool’ to make her delicate paper cutting art,  I was immediately intrigued.  I thought you would be too…

Let’s get to know NALU MIYAMOTO- her creative journey, her sharp tool and her delicate subjects.  Everyday this week I will feature a piece from her series on Japanese princesses ( some real and some mythical).
A portrait of Nalu Miyamoto and her Katana
Photo Courtesy of the Artist
DDoA: Tell us a little bit about yourself. 
NM: I am a Japanese katana paper cutting artist currently living in Singapore. Singapore is a global hub where one can have many encounters with  people from  different countries and cultures. As a Japanese artist, I would like to express Japanese culture through my katana paper cutting art.  Through my art form,  I want people to feel the heart of Japanese tradition & its fragrant exoticism.
Moreover, I wish for people from all over the world as well as for the Japanese to discover the “modern Japanese” through my art.
私は日本人切り絵作家として、シンガポールを拠点に切り絵の作品を発表しています。
シンガポールは世界中の人々が集まるハブ国家です。そのお陰で日々、沢山のご縁があります。私は色々な文化が交互するシンガポールの日本人アーティストとして、切り絵を通して自身の祖国を表現できたら嬉しいと切り絵の制作に向き合っています。
和の心を慈しみつつも、どこか異国情緒の香る、そんな切り絵作品を作りたいです。それによって、海外の方からだけではなく、日本人からも「モダンな和」を発見してもらうのが願いです。

DDoA: When and how did you get started with art? What inspires you to draw/create?
NM: The Japanese think a great deal of their beautiful traditional annual events of each season. When I was a little child, I spent a lot of time enjoying these seasonal events.  These are what have made me love beautiful things so much.  My mother gave me opportunities to experience art. She took me to museums. We watched orchestral concerts, theatrical plays and musicals. She cultivated my appreciation for the arts and artistic sensibilities from a young age. 

I studied art at Nihon University’s College Of Art in Tokyo.  I was told by my professor – Hiroshi Aramata – “you do a very good representation of line and shadow”. Professor Aramata is a Japanese author, translator and specialist in cartography. He showed me the art works of Irish illustrator Harry Clarke. I fell in love with Clarke’s black-and-white world with remarkable line and shadow representations. Soon after that I chose paper cutting as a means to render line and shadow. At last, I realized that  paper cutting was the direction I wanted for my art.  Upon my move to Singapore, Professor Aramata and his wife advised me to pursue the path of  paper cutting art. Getting such an advice from a prominent figure in Japanese arts and culture motivated me to start my artistic journey as a paper cutting artist.

日本人は、四季折々の伝統的な行事を大切にします。私も幼い頃より、生活の中でそれらに触れて、美しいものが大好きな子供でした。そんな私に母は芸術的な感性も養って欲しいと音楽、芝居、美術鑑賞の場も与えてくれました。
日本大学芸術学部の美術学科西洋絵画コースに入学し、 デッサンと油絵を学びました。
美大卒業後、助手を勤めさせて頂いた作家の荒俣宏師から、私には線と陰の表現があっているのではないかと助言を頂きます。図像学研究家でもいらっしゃる師より参考にと、アイルランドの挿絵画家、ハリー・クラークの白黒の世界を見せて頂きました。ステンドグラス作家でもあるハリー・クラークの作品は陰影の表現に優れて素晴らしく、それまで学んでいたデッサンに必要な面と光の表現とは違った線の魅力があり、それは日本人の気質にも通じる表現方法でした私は、線と陰に重きを置くために黒い紙を使い、面と光を切り、線と陰を残す表現のため、切り絵を選びました。そのとき、切り絵こそが私の表現したい世界を可視化する方法だと確信しました。恩師のアドバイスが私を切り絵の道へと導いてくれたのです。その後もシンガポールに渡るまで、尊敬する荒俣宏先生と荒俣夫人、芸術に通じる方々に切り絵の助言を頂けた事は私にとっては大切な切り絵作家としてのスタートになりました。

Nalu Miyamoto’s KATANA
Photo Courtesy of the Artist
DDoA:What inspired you to use KATANA as an art tool? Tell us more about the process of creating your Katana Paper Cutting Art?
NM: There are many kinds of paper cutting art and they each have a  different name. There are also different tools in the world used in making paper cutting art. I use the KATANA. No one has used the Katana for paper cutting art before. So I came up with an original name for my art “Katana paper cutting art (or “Katana-e”  in Japanese)”.

I pay homage to the Katana made by master craftsman (Takumi) as it is the soul of my paper cutting art .  The Katana blade creates very delicate lines.  Whenever I use the katana, I always feel that  ‘my spirit will be sharp’. I learned Kendo from my grandfather and he also taught me to always treat the Katana with reverence as it is our protector. For us Japanese, the Katana is not just a weapon, it is also a  sacred object that we use in  holy rituals and festivals . The Imperial Regalia of Japan (Sanshu no Jingi), also known as the “Three Sacred Treasures of Japan”, consists of  the Katana , the mirror and  the jewel. From olden times, the Japanese people believe that the Katana has a sacred existence and has mysterious powers.  Historically, the samurai  bride would receive a small katana as a  gif from her family and it was placed in the wedding kimono. This custom continues to this day. I myself  followed this custom on the day of my wedding.  Now with my art, I use my precious Katana to pour out my soul and give life to paper.

*Although she doesn’t want to talk about this matter in depth, it is quite interesting that Katana paper cutting artist Nalu Miyamoto actually comes from a long line of samurai warriors. Meaning, the skill with the blade is in her genes.

私は、自身の切り絵を刀絵と呼んでいます。
なぜなら、匠が特別にこの切り絵のために鋼から魂を込めて拵えてくださった刃に敬意を払い、刃が与える繊細な線に感謝をしているからです。
切り絵、切り紙、彫り絵、剪紙、伊勢型紙など、紙をきる芸術には、様々な種類と名称、そして道具があります。私はこの大切な小刀を使い、自身の刀絵を仕上げたいです。

小刀を使い切り絵を描くときは、いつも身が凛と引き締まる思いになります。
なぜなら、祖父の代から剣道を習っており、祖父から刀剣は、敬い扱うことを深く学びました。日本人にとって、刀剣はただの武器ではなく祭りや儀式にも使う神聖な存在です。三種の神器のひとつが「剣」であるように、古より刀剣は神秘な力が宿る神聖な存在です。日本では、武家の花嫁は必ず守り刀として「花嫁の短刀」を打掛にさしておりました。今日でも着物で挙式を挙げる際はこの風習が大切に残っており、私も守り刀を身に付けて花嫁衣装に身を包みました。私は、刃によって魂を込めて、紙に命を与えるような切り絵を作り出したいです。

DDoA: What are the themes of your creations? What message do you want to impart to our readers and to the world through your art?
NM: Japan’s rich history and mythology span two thousand years. I got a lot of inspiration for my paper cutting art from the stories of women. Being a Japanese woman myself, I have great respect and  sympathy for their lives.
日本には、二千年の歴史の中で培った数多くの神話や歴史の伝承があります。私はそれらの中で、特に女性の物語から多くのインスピレーションを貰い、切り絵の作品に仕上げます。なぜなら同じ日本女性として彼女達の生き方に共感し、敬意の気持ちを幼い頃から抱いていたからです。
NM: I have a Katana paper cutting art studio named “Katana-e KICHO” in Singapore. “Katana-e” means Katana art. And “Kicho” is the name of one of the Japanese historical princesses whom I highly respect. Her story provided a lot of inspiration for my Katana paper cutting art. “Kicho” means butterfly. The Princess is likened to a “butterfly” (like the famous opera “Madame Butterfly”).  Moreover, from my ancestors I received the butterfly as a family emblem.  My family even put that butterfly emblem on my kimono. To make the long story short, I have a special fondness for the image of the “butterfly” . With my paper cutting art using  “Katana”  I would like to create life on paper like turning the Japanese Princess into a butterfly.
私は現在、シンガポールにて” Katana-e KICHO”という名の切り絵アートスタジオを運営しています。「帰蝶」は日本の歴史上の女性から名前を拝借した屋号です。”KI” は帰依、”CHO”は日本語で蝶を意味する言葉です。帰蝶という女性は濃姫と呼ばれ、戦国という波乱な時代を夫君である織田信長公を陰で支えて生きた歴史上の女性です。私は数多く、帰蝶(濃姫)をモデルに切り絵を描いています。帰蝶の名前に蝶が使われるように、西洋文化で有名なオペラ「蝶々夫人」も、蝶と呼ばれた女性です。艶やかな着物姿の日本女性は蝶に例えられることがあります。また、私の実家は代々揚羽紋を使っていましたので、着物などには必ず蝶の紋をあしらっておりました。私は「蝶」というイメージに特別な思い入れがあり、自身の切り絵の中にしばし蝶を日本女性に見立てて描くことがあります。紙に命を吹き込んだ刀絵にて、蝶の如く舞う大和撫子の美しさを表現したいです。

Katana Papercutting Art #1:

Princess Kicho Nohime

NM: “Kicho” means “returning butterfly” and she is called Princess Noh. She was the wife of Nobunaga Oda, the initiator of Japan’s unification in the late 16th century.  Her legendary beauty and intelligence provided crucial support for her husband during the Sengoku (Warring States) Period of Japan’s history.
帰蝶 (濃姫)
帰蝶と呼ばれた濃姫は、父である齋藤道三より贈られた小刀を胸に
尾張の織田信長へと嫁いぐ。
信長がうつけならば、その小刀を使えとお父の言葉は現実にならず
濃姫は生涯を通し夫の天下布武を支えた。

Learn more about Princess Kicho Nohime

“Princess Kicho Nohime”
Katana Papercutting Art by Nalu Miyamoto
Photo Courtesy of the Artist

Everyday this week we will also feature a haiku that Sairi Yoshino, a poet-friend of Nalu, 
has especially written to accompany each of the artist’s Katana art:

Butterfly 
Stay on the point of a Katana 
Wear your wings nobly

切っ先に 留まる蝶の 貴やかさ

Haiku by Sairi Yoshino
俳句 吉野 彩里
English translation by Nalu Miyamoto

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This entry was posted on February 17, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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