I have long been inspired by Japanese prints, looking at them in books and when having the opportunity, seeing the real thing in exhibitions. It wasn’t until 2015 that I had the opportunity to go to Japan and experience the culture, aesthetics and realize the role Japanese design plays in my own thoughts and work. I returned to Tokyo in April 2017 to photographically capture the magic I witnessed in 2015, searching for the void between forms, capturing the magical space between unalike objects that so elegantly and innately is found in Japanese aesthetics.
My interest in Japanese art and culture has led me to years of researching the history of fine and applied arts in Japan, but not until my visits did I become aware of how all of these elements fit together. I selected specific objects and how they were made prior to my journeys: my 2015 trip focused on the use of Katagami stencils in kimono dying and how the paper stencils related to contemporary printmaking ; I examined the transitions between sections of emaki scrolls focusing on the spatial changes and introduction of new imagery in a format seen as a precursor to cinema. I was able to view an exhibition at the Suntory Museum exclusively dedicated to emaki scrolls.
Although following through on my predetermined goals, I was literally bombarded with so much else to visually process, that my end results were quite different than my initial intentions.
What became most apparent, and indeed what I was really searching for was Ma, the concept of open space of time. Ma is negative space, a void, a space that can be vibrant and dynamic, as it is not conveying empty space. It is a space where time is required, making the participant aware of all that surrounds this coveted area. It is a space to pause, consider and exist. “Ma” is a central component of Japanese culture which directs and influences Japanese arts, architecture, religion, and theatre. For the Japanese Ma constitutes a “gap” or “interval” that represents a collapse of time and space which differs from the Western notion of time and space as linear and teleological.
I spent my second visit to Tokyo searching for Ma. During that week, I photographed buildings, the geometric forms that comprised the buildings, spaces between forms, manhole covers, electrical lines and pretty much everything I saw. I’m sure I looked lost and misguided, as I continually took three steps forward and five back, just to capture the magic I was looking for, all the while talking out loud to myself. Thank goodness for cell phone ear pieces, so I could appear as if I was just having a regular conversation, rather than expressing my glee for the magic I captured with my camera.