Japanese artist's woes of war and disaster on show

Noriko Yanagisawa, a Japanese printmaking artist born during World War II, is exhibiting her highly introspective works at Zhejiang Art Museum through March 19.

Japanese printmaking artist Noriko Yanagisawa is exhibiting her highly introspective work at Zhejiang Art Museum through March 19.

The exhibition, initiated by Zhejiang Province and Shizuoka Prefecture of Japan, marks the 37th anniversary of establishing a sisterhood between the two governments. The collection, comprised of more than 80 works of art, covers almost Yanagisawa’s entire art life from late 1960 up to the present day.

Her artistic style may have changed over the years, but the subject of her printmaking has remained very much focused on nature and animals. In the “Waterside Garden” series, produced between 1999 and 2003, headless humans began to appear in her work, together with broken wings, stranded boats, extinguished bonfires and a lone wolf.

Yanagisawa admits that she draws inspirations from reality. Her travels to Fukushima after the nuclear disaster and to Chernobyl in 2015 made her rethink about the relationship between humans and the natural environment.

“In Fukushima I saw dead animal bodies. In Chernobyl, after so many years animals began to populate in the area. Compared with human beings, wildlife is wiser and they stop when their basic needs are fulfilled. We have a lot to learn from them,” said Yanagisawa.

Her series “Animal Words: From Wormwood” is a poetic representation of the Chernobyl she saw then. Eagle-headed humans wearing long robes show up in the village scene. They either hold a gun, a child’s body in their hands, or they walk with fires on their back.

Unlike her earlier works, this series feature a lot of soft colors, light green, baby blue, peach red and purple.

“I wanted to give people more hope in these works,” Yanagisawa told Shanghai Daily.

In a letter she wrote to an art critic and friend, the artist said that the ideas of these animal-people first came from a miniature painting she saw at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan. The painting portrays the righteous men in the Bible going for a messianic banquet.

However, their faces have been replaced by animals, which made Yanagisawa feel amazed, since the expressions on the faces are not at all compatible to the revelry.

At an open talk held at Zhejiang Art Museum on March 2, the artist brought to the audience the mezzotint plate that she uses for her printmaking.

The 67-year-old now stays in the small city of Kakegawa where mountains, woods and lakes are only steps away from home.

She is a connoisseur of Song Dynasty (960-1279) paintings in China. And she enjoys making art with hands.

“The development of artificial intelligence is decreasing our chances of using hands. But when our hands have lost their functions, probably we as human beings will extinct as well,” Yanagisawa said about her worries.

Date: Through March 19

Address: 138 Nanshan Rd

Admission: Free

One piece of works from the series “Animal Words: From Wormwood,” a poetic representation of the Chernobyl

Noriko Yanagisawa, a Japanese printmaking artist, focuses mainly on nature and animals. Her solo exhibition is underway at Zhejiang Art Museum.

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