Artist Residencies, Exhibitions, Projects, Activities & Events

Way of Life: Installation Process

Way of Life, this art installation was inspired by numerous Japanese Shrines that I have visited for this trip to Japan for the Artist Residency program at Studio Kura. Whether is the famous UNESCO listed or the homely neighbourhood ones, every single shrine has a story to tell; about their cultural anthropology influences and the way of Life in Japan.

Most of the shrines are lead by a lengthy stairways lined with Torī Gates from the entrance to the main shrine. Climbing through these steps clears up my mind and as I reach the tranquil & meditative main shrine nested among the greenery up in the mountain, it felt as though crossing through an invisible boundary into another ‘world’. The main shrine and the surrounding are decorated with numerous foreign motifs and iconic ornaments which sparks my curiosity enormously. These shrine visits are addictive and it has been a daily routine before I start work in the studio; it is an escapade from the stressful society & having quiet moments with myself. *some of the local shrines around the Studio Kura- Kamiari Shrine, Hakojima Shrine, MatsusueInari Shrine, MatsusueGoro Inari Shrine & Kotake Shrine.

Was very fortunate to participate in the Making of Shimenawa 標縄 with the locals, it’s an annual event and it happens that Studio Kura director’s mother owns the Matsusue Inari shrine around the vicinity. Clarified with the priest personally regarding some of the motifs meaning which inspire me to use incorporate some of the iconic motifs into my work.

Finding the right space was crucial for this installation, thought it might pose a challenge but I found it within an hour upon reaching Studio Kura on the very first day. It’s more like a fated encounter, instinctively knew it was the right space at first sight. Was told that the Studio Kura Gallery’s mezzanine is a work space and no one has ever used it to showcase their works there due to the accessibility and the design of the space. The mezzanine has a low slanted ceiling, windowless, space size around L565 x W280 x H380cm, with a simple rustic DIY stair connecting to it and a unusual opening on one side of the wall.

To create a tranquil space, the first task is to clear out the furniture and do a major spring cleaning. It took me 2 whole days to wipe down the walls and pillars, but the most tedious job was the floor. Many have been walking with their shoes on in this space for years, have to sweep and mop the floor for over 40 times with cleaning agent, literally “purifying” the space. And of course, shoes were forbidden thereafter. The spotless floor becomes my studio space, where I work with large sheets of white paper.

Photo taken by Eswari
Photo taken by Eswari.

The opening at the mezzanine is unusual but I like how the light pours in although it gets overwhelming on sunny day. Decided to work it to my advantage by creating a Japanese style “window” out of it.


Usually wasn’t able to take much of the work in progress photos when I’m in working mode. But this time, my bestie, Eswari Krishnadas, was also one of the participating artist. So here’s some rare behind the scene process.

Seems easy to install but I was trembling, have to tiptoe to reach the highest point and one slight miss I will fall over the ledge. Endless climbing for this installation really took a toll on my knees. Photo taken by Eswari.
Photo taken by Eswari.
Photo taken by Eswari.
Photo taken by Eswari.

Set up a cosy corner in the studio countering the cold winter. A makeshift snack bar and utilizing the kerosene burner to the max.

Final presentation of Way of Life will be in another post.

©Lee Cai Jun

At Studio Kura from 30 November – 26 December 2017.

AnyEveryLittleThings, Artist Residencies, Projects, Activities & Events

Making of Shimenawa 標縄作り

Was very fortunate to participate in the local activity, Shimenawa Making, which takes place once annually. Studio Kura founder’s mother, Michiko san, owns the Matsusue Inari Shrine which is just around the studio vicinity. From the making, prayer, installation and cleaning up took about 6-7 hours.

Shimenawa 標縄 is a sacred rope that is hang on the torī gates or shrine entrance or around the trees/sacred item or along the street during shrine festival to mark out the boundary between the sacred and the profane. It is also use as a ward against evil and disease. Nowadays it comes in varied sizes and designs. It is also used by the local family during New Year as decoration.

Preparing the rice straw for the making. Trimmed and arranged neatly in small piles.
Took 3 persons to make a big shimenawa.
Lunch prepared by Studio Kura founder’s mum, Michiko san.

Ceramic pot warmer is truly fantastic, the temperature is well regulated and not burning hot.
Priest making the Shide. Shide is made from washi paper, shaped like the lightning for purification purposes and marking the sacred boundary. It can also be use as a wand when attached to the stick/sakaki plant.
Inserting the Shide on the Shimenawa.
Priest putting on his prayer robe.
Thought the priest was going to start the prayer when he took out a bottle-like thing from his suitcase, thinking that is sacred water. Everyone started getting serious and quiet at their position and so I ready my camera and was about to start shooting but he quickly clarify that it’s just a can drink to clear his throat before humming the prayer. The good-humored priest even show us the can that he is drinking, the atmosphere was immediately livened up. In any case, I have already started the shoot.

After the prayer ceremony, we head up to the shrines in the mountain to install the new Shimenawa.

After the ceremony, the old shimenawa will be burn away as a form of purification as the shimenawa has collected evil for the past one year. Lastly, I was able to ask the priest a few questions regarding the iconic motifs and it’s function and compile them with my own research and use it for the my art installation, Way of Life.

I made one for Chinese New Year decoration.

©Lee Cai Jun

10 December 2017.

AnyEveryLittleThings, Art Travel, Projects, Activities & Events, Sky Island

Moriyama Kasuri Factory 久留米絣 森山絣工房

Thanks to Kayoko san from the Matsuo Washi Factory, we get to visit to the famed Moriyama Kasuri Factory 久留米絣 森山絣工房 and learn about the Japan traditional Kurume Kasuri (Shibori Textile). This technique has a long history spanning over 200 years and originated by a girl Den Inoue, whose curiosity inspired her to create Kasuri, technique to twine and dye vertical threads and horizontal ones together so as to weave up a design. Kurume Kasuri is now a nationally-designated Important intangible cultural property.

Kasuri requires about 30 procedures, from Pattern designing, Tekukuri (Hand Twining), Aizome (Indigo Dye), to Teori (Hand Weaving). Moriyama Kasuri factory is well known for these and titled as the Kogara no Moriyama (Elaborately Pattern Moriyama).

We met the head of the family Torao Moriyama, the fifth master Tetsuhiro Moriyama and her amazing wife who taught us the Kasuri Workshop.

I documented these enriching experience into videos and showcased together with my art installation at the Studio Kura Residency Exhibition.

Do check out their facebook page here.

The piece that I made during the workshop.

©Lee Cai Jun

Went there on 14 December 2017

AnyEveryLittleThings, Art Travel, Projects, Activities & Events

Matsuo Washi Factory 松尾和紙工場

Went for a day trip together with 2 other artists to the Matsuo Washi Factory 松尾和紙工場 at Yame, Kyushu, Japan. Meet the most bubbly and welcoming owner, Kayoko san, who picked us up from the Hainuzuka train station. Glad that the Japanese that I studied is working well and she speaks a little English too which made the whole trip was so relaxing and enjoyable.

Had a wonderful tour around the factory and had an in-depth understanding on the traditional crafting technique of making the beautiful Washi papers. We spent more than an hour and a half selecting and purchasing the papers, but Kayoko san is always patience and addressing to our requests. It was way passed lunch time when we left the place and thanks to her generous hospitality that we didn’t even realized it.

Kayoko san arranged another tour at her friend’s place, the Moriyama Kasuri Factory and offered to drive us there and stop along the way for lunch.  She brought us to a local udon shop which is really delicious and the least we could do is to buy her lunch. Really appreciate that she stayed with us during the Kurume Kasuri tour and helped us with the language and lastly send us back to the train station. It was such enriching and fortunate trip to have learn 2 Japanese traditional crafts in a day and also met the most sincere and warmest person ever.

Delicious Udon for lunch

I decided to make a video to document this experience and showcase in addition to the main art work I am installing at the Studio Kura Artist Residency Exhibition at the space below the mezzanine. The most rewarding affirmation is the unexpected surprise visit when Kayoko san and her friend turn up at our exhibition and see the video personally. I was on the verge of giving up on the videos due to lack of time for making the main art work and also the slow network, but now I’m glad to have sacrificed my sleep, it is definitely worth it!

Kayoko san watching the video and it happens to play at the part where her husband is making the Washi.

Having brought back all the Washi, I am going to utilise them well and create some art pieces out of these beautiful handmade papers. Check out their shop here.

*the Moriyama Kasuri Factory tour will be on the next post 🙂

©Lee Cai Jun

Went there on 9 December 2017

Artist Residencies, Exhibitions, Projects, Activities & Events

On Fukuoka Now

Got featured on Fukuoka Now

AnyEveryLittleThings, Artist Residencies, Projects, Activities & Events

Artist Residency at Studio Kura

The new place I’ve been staying since 30 Nov for an artist residency at Studio Kura’s House 2. Got a nice big room with an adjacent space for working. It’s on the top floor with a view of traditional Japanese house. #artistleecaijun #artresidency #room #roomwithview #topfloor #japanesehouse #studiokura #yuystudiotravel #kyushu #japan  #yuystudiotravel #studio #workspace #mezzanine #studiokura #nijomasue #kyushu #artistatwork 

For the main exhibit and studio working space I will be using Studio Kura 1’s mezzanine. I have a thing for higher ground!