Friday, June 17, 2011
Meetings With Remarkable People in Japan: Eriko Horiki -- Pioneer on the Washi Frontier
Traditional handmade washi paper can be found everywhere in Japan, from name cards to beautiful wrapping paper. Until now, the largest washi never exceeded 3 feet x 6 feet long. But washi as large format installation art, using paper tapestries up to 50 feet long, brings this ancient process to a new artistic and technological level altogether.
Situated in a narrow old Kyoto neighborhood is the studio and showroom of one of Japan's most successful contemporary artists, Eriko Horiki. As each distinctly different, 10 foot long sample of her washi art after another is rolled out on ceiling tracks, the paper reveals its beauty: thin fibers creating delicate swirls around tiny bits of mulberry bark, long coarse strips of bark floating dramatically in what looks like churning whirlpools. Washi's color and texture are enhanced by light, and as Horiki slowly shifts the light source from the front to the back of the piece, the fibers within the paper become illuminated and then disappear, creating an ethereal experience for the viewer.
One of Horiki's most exciting projects was a collaboration with cellist Yo Yo Ma, a 46 foot long by 13 foot high single piece of washi that is the stage backdrop for his "Silk Road" concert tour, which debuted at Carnegie Hall. "Yo Yo Ma first found out about us when he saw our work here in Kyoto," Horiki explains. "We talked about the traditional and innovative aspects of washi, and new possibilities in music and stage decoration."
Yet to a Westerner her pieces might not even look Japanese, but amazingly international. Horiki sees this, in part, as the flow of ideas enabled by our contemporary world: "People meet and are influenced by each other, people are influenced by previous eras, people from different countries influence each other. From all of this interchange comes the birth of a new culture."