There’s something poetic in painting a flower with an ink made from that same flower. The work of the Japanese artist, Kazumi Tanakawhose latest project, INK: The Color of Manitoga, has consisted of creating inks made from varying plant species. Born in Osaka, the artist emigrated to the United States in 1987, where she’s developed her work for decades. It deals with that connection between the ephemeral nature of memory and the tangible mementos of history, in a way she describes as “a continuous search filtered through time and distance.”

Manitoga is a property of some 77 acres where the famous industrial designer Russel Wright (1904-1976) built his home in Garrison, New York. Today an artist residency space, the estate’s huge garden is home to an enormous variety of native plants. It was here that Tanaka (only the residency program’s fifth artist) gathered the specimens she would later turn into watercolors. Once the plant materials are turned into ink, the artist makes botanical drawings of each species, using the pigment obtained from that same species.

kazumi1
kazumi2
kazumi3

Thus, the project is related to the history of the property and to the “organic architecture” Wright created there, including his very personal interpretation of the Japanese gardens. According to Tanaka, The Color of Manitoga pays homage to the designer’s legendary obsession with color which is still appreciated in his famous ceramics.

The artist residency at Manitoga lasts a whole year, and Tanaka began hers in January of 2018. Having built a chemical laboratory, (she’s also a wood artist and restorer of antique furniture), she crushes the leaves of the plants and the petals of the flowers until they’re liquefied, before finally transforming them into pigments – a kind of alchemical process using botanical ingredients.

kazumi4
kazumi6
kazumi7
kazumi5

Once Tanaka obtains a paste made from the plants, she uses the water from the Manitoga pond (which she distils in the laboratory) to dilute the paste. This is then mixed it with gum arabic and other natural ingredients to work as binders and fixatives. The natural inks obtained need to be used quickly before their tones are lost. Green, for example, because it is the product of chlorophyll, is the hardest color to preserve. Chlorophyll is generated by sunlight, and thus, once the sunlight goes away, the green will disappear, too.

In addition to the paintings, Tanaka has kept a diary in which she records the times and processes of the work, registering the plants growing in the garden, and the changes in each with the passage of the seasons. Finally, she’s marked a map of the property, using the colors, and recording the places where she found each plant, and registering its scientific name. The artistic work, deeply connected with the natural world and endowed with a distinct meticulousness, also responds to her personal story. Having grown up in a house made of wood, bamboo, and paper in Japan, she explains that the materials she works with, usually, come directly from nature, too.

Painting any flower with its own ink is a way of saving it from death. In Tanaka’s drawings, the plants, in some way, are always alive. The project hasn’t quite concluded, but it’s planned as a series of works born of a process oscillating nicely between chemistry and creativity, between object and concept, and between the ephemeral quality of life and that eternity which only art can embody.

 

 

 

Images: The Russel Wright Design Center

There’s something poetic in painting a flower with an ink made from that same flower. The work of the Japanese artist, Kazumi Tanakawhose latest project, INK: The Color of Manitoga, has consisted of creating inks made from varying plant species. Born in Osaka, the artist emigrated to the United States in 1987, where she’s developed her work for decades. It deals with that connection between the ephemeral nature of memory and the tangible mementos of history, in a way she describes as “a continuous search filtered through time and distance.”

Manitoga is a property of some 77 acres where the famous industrial designer Russel Wright (1904-1976) built his home in Garrison, New York. Today an artist residency space, the estate’s huge garden is home to an enormous variety of native plants. It was here that Tanaka (only the residency program’s fifth artist) gathered the specimens she would later turn into watercolors. Once the plant materials are turned into ink, the artist makes botanical drawings of each species, using the pigment obtained from that same species.

kazumi1
kazumi2
kazumi3

Thus, the project is related to the history of the property and to the “organic architecture” Wright created there, including his very personal interpretation of the Japanese gardens. According to Tanaka, The Color of Manitoga pays homage to the designer’s legendary obsession with color which is still appreciated in his famous ceramics.

The artist residency at Manitoga lasts a whole year, and Tanaka began hers in January of 2018. Having built a chemical laboratory, (she’s also a wood artist and restorer of antique furniture), she crushes the leaves of the plants and the petals of the flowers until they’re liquefied, before finally transforming them into pigments – a kind of alchemical process using botanical ingredients.

kazumi4
kazumi6
kazumi7
kazumi5

Once Tanaka obtains a paste made from the plants, she uses the water from the Manitoga pond (which she distils in the laboratory) to dilute the paste. This is then mixed it with gum arabic and other natural ingredients to work as binders and fixatives. The natural inks obtained need to be used quickly before their tones are lost. Green, for example, because it is the product of chlorophyll, is the hardest color to preserve. Chlorophyll is generated by sunlight, and thus, once the sunlight goes away, the green will disappear, too.

In addition to the paintings, Tanaka has kept a diary in which she records the times and processes of the work, registering the plants growing in the garden, and the changes in each with the passage of the seasons. Finally, she’s marked a map of the property, using the colors, and recording the places where she found each plant, and registering its scientific name. The artistic work, deeply connected with the natural world and endowed with a distinct meticulousness, also responds to her personal story. Having grown up in a house made of wood, bamboo, and paper in Japan, she explains that the materials she works with, usually, come directly from nature, too.

Painting any flower with its own ink is a way of saving it from death. In Tanaka’s drawings, the plants, in some way, are always alive. The project hasn’t quite concluded, but it’s planned as a series of works born of a process oscillating nicely between chemistry and creativity, between object and concept, and between the ephemeral quality of life and that eternity which only art can embody.

 

 

 

Images: The Russel Wright Design Center