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, Matsusue Inari Shrine, Matsusue Goro 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 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.
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.
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.