Monday, December 25, 2017

Painting the healing powers of coral raised in Kochi’s nature: Japanese painter, Akemi Ochi

Ms. Ochi and Cho CIR
  I can’t believe there are ways to use coral other than for accessories. That surprise was our first impression. “I’m painting pictures by borrowing power from coral. It’s because Kochi’s beautiful ocean exists. The color and texture of coral contains healing properties for people,” says Ms. Ochi. Ms. Ochi’s works involve various materials such as silver leaf and vivid colors, and they all come together beautifully. Ground coral provides a refreshing warm hue on top. This is a traditional technique used in Japanese paintings, and although it is common to use ground natural minerals as painting material, Ms. Ochi uses materials homemade from refined Kochi coral instead of store-bought materials. This is all pasted on with a glue called “nikawa”. The lumpy texture of actual coral has a spatial effect, and makes the entire art piece stand out. In addition to this, it is said that the color of coral does not fade much over the years. The contrast with materials such as silver leaf, which changes color over time, is beautiful because of this.

Why Ms. Ochi started to use coral as art material
Refined ground coral.
Even from the same coral,
you can see that many
colors depending on
particle size can be made.
  According to Ms. Ochi she thought, “In Kochi, there is beautiful coral nurtured by nature, but I think the people of Kochi might not realize how precious it is because it is so common to them. I want to let more people know about the beauty and value of coral,” and so decided to refine natural ground coral. However, knowledge of coral refining was limited, and Ms. Ochi, who is from outside of the prefecture, did not know any artisans specializing in coral sculpting. But when she purchased an earring from a jewelry store, she boldly requested, “Please introduce me to the artist who made this,” and was able to connect with an artisan and learn the basics of coral refining. That artisan still comes to her exhibits even today. What is considered common sense in sculpture circles is not common sense in Japanese painting circles. Ms. Ochi crosses genres, taking in the best of both worlds, and disseminates information as she works to further Kochi’s coral culture.
“Wind of coral” The warm
wind rising up from the back
of the woman is painted with
color from ground blood red coral
How ground coral is refined
   The refining of ground coral involves numerous steps. Sort coral according to color→crush into pieces→grind finely→remove iron powder→cleanse with chemicals→sort particles using a water drying method→dry and complete. Subtly different colors can be made, such as deep pink from blood red coral, and a soft beige-like color from white coral. It took over two years of research and instruction from artisans and college professors to arrive at this process. When asked, “Isn’t it a lot of trouble to refine coral, with all the time and work spent?” Ms. Ochi replied, “No, it’s fun. It’s exciting to just grind the coral using a mortar and pestle!” The refinement of coral seems like very tedious work considering it takes a long time to grind the hard coral and how the color can be affected by the surrounding environment, but from hearing Ms. Ochi, it sounds like the work doesn’t bother her and that there is love in the refinement process.
Telling the tale of the importance of Kochi’s nature to younger generations
   Through exhibitions and workshops both in and out of the country, Ms. Ochi says she wants people to feel the grandeur, beauty, and preciousness of Kochi’s nature where coral is nurtured. She says she wants to create opportunities to discover the beauty of coral for people who haven’t realized it yet, and wants them to feel the healing powers of coral.
   Ochi Akemi Website

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