Maio Motoko Studio Visit

A little like Aladdin’s cave, dark and full of golden and silver treasures, might be one way of describing Maio Motoko’s attic storage of antique fabrics. Shelves and shelves, boxes and boxes of these textile gems provide a creative source for the artist and a challenge for our film crew. One of the most enjoyable aspects of contemporary art is of course the relationship with the artist, and the opportunity to visit a studio and experience the work from its inception.

As reported in our last newsletter, we are working on a documentary on the works of Maio Motoko. Commenced during the artist’s stay in Melbourne in conjunction with her solo show at the gallery, we planned to produce a short 3-5 minute documentary. Maio is an inspiring artist, full of joie de vivre and conceptually articulate. The footage and commentary is so good that this has snowballed into a major project. The Melbourne story has been augmented with footage from Maio’s studio in Japan. A fortuitous meeting with Ivan Kovaks, part of Paul Johanessen’s film crew who accompanied us to Ishinomaki, meant we had the additional talent of a professional cameraman on hand to fulfil the brief to its fullest extent.

Maio’s studio is tiny, a testament to the patience and perseverance of the Japanese psyche. It defies imagination to envisage the grand and dynamic works created in this physical space. Maio’s vision soars beyond the physical limitations of the studio.

The traditional Japanese studio system is based on a specialized division of labour that is an integral part of the technical sophistication and complexity of much of Japanese art. The Maio studio combines the talents of Ishisone Wakako, Hamamoto Yumiko and Ishizuka Junko under the managerial eye of Kaieda Mamiko, whom many of you will have met with Maio in Melbourne last year.

Ishisone-san has been with Maio for over 15 years and revealed the intricacies of the ‘marubocho’ in cutting the hand-backed fabric. This special knife eluded my translation and internet searches to discover its characteristics: A round-edged, double-sided, broad-bladed knife, it is wielded with consummate skill in the hands of Ishisone-san. Ishizuka-san creates the natural rice-based glue used in a variety of applications, seated for hours over a small burner pounding and mixing and smoothing. Hamamoto-san enlightened us all with her explanation and demonstration of the multiple applications of a variety of different types of Japanese washi which form the canvas for Maio’s art. The complex, detailed and time-consuming work involved in the creation of Maio’s screens leaves us awed.

The task ahead of editing, translating and subtitling is somewhat daunting, but part of the excitement of the ever expanding scope and reach of Lesley Kehoe Galleries’ projects. The end result will be a fascinating and meaningful documentary on this very important contemporary artist. All we can do now is to give you a sneak preview of part of the still photography taken during the shoot.