At the turn of the 18th and 19th century, Motoori Norinaga contemplated the great work of Japanese literature, the novel the Tale of Genji by a lady-in-waiting Murasaki Shikibu written at the turn of the first and second millennium AD. He then coined a name for a phenomenon that became an important notion in the history of Japanese thought and literature: mono no aware. Although the meaning of the phrase varied over the centuries and with different interpretations, it is often characterized, following Buddhist and Confucian traditions, as wistfulness or nostalgia over the transience of all things and phenomena in life. It also entitles the fact, that this transience is a life’s constant.
Within her work, American artist of Japanese origin Tamiko Kawata often refers to the traditions of her homeland. One could say, that mono no aware is something, that Kawata is naturally updating in her practice. Used things or recycled materials are in the center of her attention: newsprint paper, toilet rolls, cardboard, plastic bags. All this is not presented as the final stage of matter in our consumer society; it is rather a starting point, inspiration and medium for her large-scale installations and objects. Accumulating, collecting and multiplicating materials that have long passed their date of expiry are incorporated into Kawata’s works as effective tools for transformation of the gallery environment as well as for life environments.
For Kawata, recycling is not only an option to highlight environmental insensitivity of the society; her practice is not primarily eco-activist. Rather, it is trying to create a personalized approach to the world of things and materials, to find intimate relationship to something that has seemingly lost its value, to things that illustrate the temporality and transience of the world. It is this approach, that actually makes even her large-scale installations change into atmospheric and immersive environments with a strong emotional appeal.
A Quiet Room transforms the space of Kostka gallery in a similar logic: it creates a quiet, meditative place; necropolis of old materials, still new life arises here. Paper waterfall forms a kind of backdrop to a sculptural paraphrase of the Japanese domestic hearthstone, the center of family life, home, peace, evenings spent together with beloved ones. What more is there to ask from mono no aware, than to stop and just be a part of, at least for a while.
Tamiko Kawata (1936*) is a Japanese artist currently based in New York, USA. She studied sculpture in Tokyo at Tsukuba University. Her works have been presented at numerous exhibitions around the world such as Rockland Center for the Arts NY, NoHo Gallery NY, Brown Grotta Arts Chicago, Takano Art Gallery Tokyo and A.I.R. Gallery NY. She has received several awards, such as the Blue Mountain Center for the Arts Residency Award, the Pollock/Krasner Foundation Grant and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Her main focus is on sculpture and installations made from everyday materials and environmental issues.