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  Etsuko Ichikawa
 
 
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September 1, 2008
Plumbing the Subconscious
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NY Arts Magazine

I often think about what is beyond our visible world. I am sensitive to unseen things, like someone’s feelings and energy, a particular atmosphere in nature, or memories that come back to me over and over again. I am interested in speaking to that level of consciousness. Through my art, I try to connect to a similar organic or spiritual sense in other people, and create an impact that would inspire them in this somewhat unidentifiable, deeper area.

I work with abstract ideas that come from my inner vision. I am fascinated by the ephemeral that has an ever-changing state, such as water, fire, cloud, smoke, light and shadow, sound, etc. At the same time I am intrigued by something that may last eternally or is passed down through many generations, such as memories and stories. My work is about this investigation into what lies between the ephemeral and the eternal.

My “glass pyrographs” are a perfect example of this. I draw with molten glass, leaving the immediate charred tracery of my movement that is one way to eternalize an ephemeral moment. This process is quite intuitive and immediate, and I love the fact that I can experience such intensity and a meditative state of mind during the working process. I am very attracted to molten glass. It looks just like golden honey, and I find it amusing that glass is scientifically considered to be super-cooled liquid. I got goose bumps when I first gathered molten glass onto a blowing pipe. It was sensational.

My installations and sculptural works are often floating in the air. I like working with lightweight materials that are translucent, because they reflect my ideas well. For a theatrical set Forest Installation, I used Styrofoam piping to make a number of hanging sculptures and created an inner space within the stage to nest performers. It was inspiring to see how the lighting and projected animation transformed my installation, becoming almost eerie as the pieces begin swaying in response to the performers’ movements. I felt that it was like a reflection of one’s ever-changing states of mind.

I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. My parents are both art and craft oriented people, and my father is a tailor; many of his clients are artists or craftsmen. I was thrilled when my father took me to the artists’ studios for fittings, and still remember the smell of oil paints at a painter’s atelier. I went to an art school from junior high school all the way through art college in Tokyo. After spending solid ten years training to be an artist, I encountered an unanswerable question that stopped me from continuing to make art: what is art and what is an artists’ role in this contemporary world? I was young. I didn’t want to proceed without knowing the answer. This period lasted for several years until I received surprising results from a medical examination. My blood cell balance was totally off and my spleen was enlarged. I could have become seriously ill, which shook me completely, causing within me great turmoil about what I should be doing for the rest of my life. But it also made the answer quite clear to me, and after that, the rest became easy. From that point on, I started making again, and continue to make today.

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