April 22, 2019
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Spanish, Japanese artists use kimonos as canvases in new Tokyo exhibit

By Nora Olivé.

Tokyo, Apr 11 (efe-epa).- The age-old kimono, Japan's iconic traditional garment, has become the ideal canvas for a group of Spanish and Japanese artists who on Thursday opened an exhibition in Tokyo showcasing various pictorial, textile and ornamental approaches to the East Asian country's art.

The Kimono-Joya project was launched in 2015 when a group of artists from both countries – which are separated by a distance of nearly 11,000 kilometers (6,800 miles) – decided to band together, united by their attraction to Japanese culture and the "haori," the kimono-style jacket that is the exhibition's unequivocal protagonist.

"The project was formed like art is formed: spontaneously," the exhibit's curator, Carlos Muñiz, told EFE.

The 34 artworks are being displayed at the Spanish embassy in the Japanese capital, located in Tokyo's upscale Roppongi district.

Each of the pieces consists of a black silk haori, hung in T-shape from the ceiling, on which the artists have individually expressed their aesthetic vision.

Some of them were guided by the principle of "wabi-sabi," a difficult-to-translate term describing the beauty that can be found in imperfection or in the simplicity and transience of the natural world.

This is the case of a piece created by Muñiz – who, apart from curating the display, is also one of the participating artists – that is based on the geometric figure of a circle, another staple of Japanese art.

"We've all opted for the circular form, and that's something that is very Japanese, very zen," he explained.

Alfonso Albacete, a painter from the southern Spanish province of Malaga, also used the circle on his haori to represent spring within a four-piece set symbolizing the four seasons, another recurring element in Japanese culture.

Local artists such as Teruhiro Ando and Fumiko Negishi contributed with their own takes on their distinctive culture.

Negishi, who moved to Madrid decades ago after finishing her studies – attracted by Spanish masters like Joan Miró or Antoni Tàpies – paid tribute to the Japanese women who arduously knitted during Wold War II in a piece titled "Dream."

"To me, the kimono and the haori are tradition, they're as old as my country," she told EFE.

According to Muñiz, one of the biggest challenges was applying the different techniques on silk, a delicate material that presented serious problems with no easy solutions.

Some artists, like the poet and philosopher Ignacio Gómez de Liaño, used digital printing, while the painter Eva Lootz sewed hundreds of minuscule crystal beads onto her haori and Diego Canogar did the same using pull tabs from soda cans.

"I didn't use to work with silk before, but it's a great pleasure," Negishi said. "It makes a fantastic material just for painting."

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