Saturday, September 18, 2010

Chiyoko Tanaka

Chiyoko Tanaka has a kind of perfect pitch for proportion and uses it with great restraint. She achieves her dry, matte surfaces by rubbing the cloth she has carefully woven into virtual oblivion. A narrow width of fabric is given a timeless patina...She leaves us in suspended time with infinite beauty.    -- Brown Grotta catalog

We had to tear ourselves away from the flea market in order to meet Chiyoko Tanaka at a designated location where she met us and ferried us up into the remoter parts of Kyoto where she has her home and studio.

Chiyoko shows her work regularly in international exhibitions and supports herself by teaching one day a week in the fine arts department at Kyoto University. She lives modestly -- as she says, she "eats the clouds" -- with her feisty cat (who made his presence known for the entirety of our visit, rubbing our ankles and nipping at them if we weren't paying close enough attention to him).

Her studio is full to the rafters with her artwork, safely packed in boxes custom made for shipping. When we arrived she was preparing to send several pieces off to an upcoming exhibition and unwrapped a couple of them for us to see. Her work is understated and beautiful, most pieces designed with strong emphasis on the horizontal and vertical. Some of her newer work departs from this grid and is more organic -- small, assymetrical weavings that are painted in "random", dynamic brushstrokes.

After admiring her art, we lingered over tea and local grapes. She was so gracious to welcome us into her home and studio and so generous with her time -- yet her generosity didn't end there. The coup de grace was when she presented each of us - Chisako, Diana and me - with a small ball of linen (or another bast fiber?) - hand-dyed in indigo by Shindo and featured in the video Textile Magicians of Japan; a seemingly modest gift that held so much meaning for its recipients. Here's a picture of this little treasure:

Chiyoko Tanaka's work is in permanent collections of many major art museums, including: the Art Institute of Chicago, the St. Louis Museum of Art, the Israel Museum, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Hamburg.

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