“What's Art?” by Motoko Sato
These days it seems art refers to be contemporary art, but I'm strongly attracted to classical arts. Now I want to introduce my favorite artworks from various times. My favorite artwork is the paintings in the Chauvet Cave, which was drawn 35,000 years ago and is well known as the earliest preserved cave paintings in the world. As letters hadn't been developed yet, people at that time might have expressed their prayers by drawing. Seeing the dynamism and beauty of the painting, I imagine they might have good feelings when they finished. It is a common painting that was credited to the cave society.
I came to like Andrew Wyeth in my school days. He was a masterly painter of realist in the U.S. Here is his quote that inspired me; 'The commonplace is the thing, but it's hard to find. Then if you believe in it, have a love for it, this specific thing will become a universal.' Since it is the viewpoint as an art, I was impressed by his idea.
At that time I was a student of girls' art university senior high school and learned paintings from a sculptor. My father taught paintings at home and sometimes drew pictures when he was asked. One day I said to him 'I think your paintings can never be called art.' He didn't say anything though I really regretted what I said to him and still can't forget.
Currently anyone can call themselves an artist. However we need to be careful to find out the quality of their works. No one will be the slightest bit interested in whatever with poor quality. Regardless of a genre or a category, everything that is made by human beings could be art. It is not the thing whether it is art or product, but the important thing is whether you feel spirit in the work or not. While artists inspire us with their works, we should take their thoughts properly. Expressions and times are always connected with each other. But who decides if the work is art or not?
Goya, a court painter, famous for 'The Clothed Maja' and 'The Nude Maja' wasn't my favorite. However, The Black Paintings in Museo del Prado in Madrid overturned my image of Goya. Those 14 paintings were exhibited there and were painted on the walls of his salon or dining room in the villa, where Goya lived in later years. He didn't draw them to sell. There were some scary paintings though I was deeply touched by them somehow. Goya became my favorite painter ever. At the age 82, before his life ended, he left a word 'I am still learning' also grabbed my heart.
Since I learned art education act at university, I often use art materials for discussing about living. I give an art class to 6th grade using the material 'two Pablos' every year. First I show students Pablo Picasso's 'Guernica' without explanation. Then I ask them to write the impression about the painting. After that I tell them about the history behind the picture and ask them again to write what they think about it. At the end of the class I play Pablo Casals' 'The Song of Birds', a traditional Catalan lullaby, and read to them his mother's words; I don't respect the law. Because some laws help people but some don't. So I respect my own conscience more than the law.' Casals had brought up with his mother's words. One day he was asked to play the cello for Hitler. Hitler's follower came to pick Casals up. But he refused to perform for Hitler. Then Casals escaped from the country. Since then he had played 'The Song of Birds' at the concerts in many countries. Whenever he played the song, he said to the audience 'Spring hadn't come to Spain yet. Birds were crying 'peace, peace' there.'
After visiting more than 30 countries, I came to realize the beauty of Japan. Because of being surrounded by the sea, we can look the sea from a mountain of 3000m above sea level. I say that is amazing. Thanks to the sea and mountains, we have been living with rich natural resources. There is one more thing that I think amazing about Japan. It is Japanese people's sense for feeling. Since we have a habit to hold dish or rice bowls when we eat, we enjoy not only the color and the shape of dishes but also the weighs and the texture. Living in a house built of plain wood with Tatami mat is also enjoyable. I like shoji, a sliding paper door slides on the windowsill as well. Techniques of making washi, a Japanese handmade paper and textile are also great. We value the hand touch feeling of materials. Moreover we are good at using space. Japanese painters, especially Sugimoto Hiroshi and Maruyama Okyo have their peculiar sense for the space.
When we talk about 'nature and art', art means artificial. The word 'art' is derived from the Latin word 'ars', which means artifice. Using techniques artificially for nature mean art. Siva, a Hindu deity, is a god of art and also is a god of creation and destruction. I considered that the two of them happen at the same time. Then what is the difference between the two? A big difference is whether there is a desire or prayer in his/her art. Last of all, I want to tell you about the most favorite sculptor of mine. It is Alberto Giacomotti, who is well known as a surrealist sculptor. When I saw his representative sculptor 'standing woman', I was overwhelmed of its presence of existence.
Singing and drawing is the same as praying. It is the way of self-expression and sometimes shows their prayers. However, we can't see what other people's thoughts because they are invisible. They need to make it visible thing. People make something for expressing their thoughts and feelings and then they become art. Art is fun and it gives us joy of living.
I like children's drawings. They are artists, too. I sometimes use Yoshida Shigeru's 'Kami Yadoru Ki' (God in Tree) as a material for children's art class. I tell them that the tree takes water quietly from the ground. After the story, children start drawing. Art is not special. Living itself is art. Art is the self-expression tool that to show what to think and feel. What do I destroy and make? I will keep asking to myself and others what-is- art-questions through my artworks.