October 06, 2021

Gate 3: pick up a few things

On visiting Mitsui Fine Arts, Misako Mitsui’s home gallery, I entered a space in which every element was meticulously located in relationship to every other element — and to the whole. The rooms were imbued with quiet yet powerful energy. Even the leaves on the trees and the blue sky viewed through large windows seemed connected by invisible threads with the smallest object in this interior realm. I knew I had been invited into a special place, to be explored slowly and with focused attention.

For over thirty years I’ve worked in the same studio, a small room in the Mission apartment I share with my partner. Preparing to draw or paint I take some care in arranging elements in the studio, reconnecting with materials and process as attention shifts from studio environment to actual work. I pay attention to the smallest increments of space within the work and all around it — in the way one’s idiosyncratic nature can shape aesthetic principle.

The Japanese principle toriawase literally means: “pick up a few things and put them together.” On a deeper level, toriawase is the harmony between objects in space, open and inviting to human presence, with an awareness of nature and the world outside. This principle is key to the centuries’ old philosophy and cultural practice of the Way of Tea. Misako’s family has been in Kyoto for two and a half centuries, with tea culture an integral part of their life for eleven generations.

In the spirit of toriawase, Misako invited me to make an exhibition in collaboration with her. We are interested to work with old and new, East and West, to see what these visual trajectories may have to say to each other. The upcoming exhibition takes place in March 2022. Its title is Gate.

Artisan’s name unknown, Hexagonal Stone Carving, mid-14th century, stone, 5 ½ in. x 7 in. diameter, photo: courtesy of Mitsui Fine Arts

Artisan’s name unknown, Tatami Edges, date unknown, bundle of rolled edges from tatami mats, 3 ½ in. x 15 in. diameter, photo: courtesy of Mitsui Fine Arts

Artisan’s name unknown, Oil Lamp, ca. 1900, iron, 5 in. x 3 in. x 5 in. (height with handle, 9 1/2 in.) photo: courtesy of Mitsui Fine Arts

Unknown artist, Buddha, Heian period (794–1185), wood, 12 in. x 3 in., photo: courtesy of Mitsui Fine Arts

Léonie Guyer, installation view: Léonie Guyer: form in the realm of , 2018, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, photo: Johnna Arnold

Léonie Guyer, Untitled (studio wall drawing), 2019, photo: Phillip Maisel


This is the third in a series of three posts. Posts one and two can be found here and here.

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