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.

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。

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.



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.
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)

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:

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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