Maio Motoko (b. 1948)
Contemporary screen artist, Maio Motoko has completely revolutionized the form of the traditional Japanese folding screen creating a 13 fold screen of graduating panels: “Don’t you think that the screen is the material embodiment of Japanese culture? While a flat surface is being created, it is simultaneously three dimensional. It freely changes shape and transforms space. Light and shadow can be created in the twinkling of an eye. It also communicates the sensitivities of beauty and in a physical form expresses the fleeting, transient nature of life. It is a both a painting and an object – a bewitchingly ambivalent form. You don’t completely partition a room, but rather capture the fleeting mood of a moment and enjoy the imperceptible sound of it vanishing.
Ambivalence – there is a tendency to think of this as a negative trait of the Japanese, when in fact, isn’t it actually something to celebrate?”
Maio Motoko trained as a mounter of traditional scrolls and then, motivated by a search for truly individual expression, moved on to the mastery of Japanese screen making, making the entire framework of the screens herself. She has remained true to the traditional function of the folding screen in its ability to manipulate physical space. She has moved beyond this in her attempt to relate the traditional form to modern times and interiors, with the re-creation of the double hinge and the unique differential sizes of the individual folds of the screens. This enables a flexibility of form and a manipulation of physical space that surpasses the original intention of the traditional form.
Mastery of technique and materials is obvious in her work. She brings to the canvas of the folding screen mundane materials – aluminium foil, crushed stone, sand, dirt, iron rust, and so on – that provide a freedom of colour and a textural palette unimaginable in traditional forms.
Her artistic concepts relate to the subtle contradictions and harmonies of Yin and Yang and how they appear in human experience. She is unafraid of the exploration and demonstration of the negative, the dark, the aggressive, the decay and transience of life alongside its lighter and happier counterpoints. Her work has an immediate visual appeal with an immediately concurrent emotional impact that is born from the synthesis of human experience.
As sculptural objects her works stand in a variety of formations, none of which hint to its other manifestations. Her unique thirteen fold graduated screen folds down to a mysterious trapezoid which stands alone as a sculptural object, totally concealing its potential as a massive canvas. As functional art, Maio’s works give unprecedented flexibility to the transformation of space and to the playful creative instincts of the owner of the work.
Maio Motoko has taken the traditional form of the Japanese folding screen and given it new life in a contemporary and international context. She has moved beyond boundaries of time, space, form and culture. She will undoubtedly be recognized as one of the great artists of the 21st century.