“ Mantle ” and the village of Ainokura --- Works of Nana TAMAMOTO
In the spring of 2007, Nana Tamamoto will hold personal exhibitions at
two venues in Toyama Prefecture: the village of Taira within the city of
Nanto where she was born, and the city of Takaoka. Taira, which has been designated a World Heritage site of UNESCO, is a
village of traditional Japanese houses whose architectural style is known as
Gokayama Gassho-zukuri. The exhibitions
will take place at two of those Gassho-zukuri houses. This will be the second time that Tamamoto
has chosen traditional Japanese houses as a venue of her exhibition. In 2004, she also held the personal exhibitions in Toyama Prefecture, and
at that time, the exhibitions were held simultaneously at two different
old Japanese houses, both of which are nationally-designated cultural properties:
one was “ the House of Uchiyama, ” which used to be a farmhouse of a wealthy
farmer, and the other was “ the House of Kanaoka, ” which used to be a
house of a pharmacist.
“ I don’t feel like exhibiting my works in a white, square-shaped box made
just for artworks,” says Tamamoto.
“ Rather, I feel a strong bond with such old traditional houses which have
survived to demonstrate a long line of people who lived there. With them I feel entranced.” What she says might sound familiar to us since we say “ a sign of people.
” As this
expression mentions, strangely enough, we sometimes feel as if we could sense
the presence of something left by a person who lived in that house, though the
house itself is now deserted. This
reminds me of her exhibitions which were held simultaneously in 2004. I remember, in two old houses previously
mentioned, Tamamoto created her own world by capturing and combining the
different atmosphere each room has, such as a guest room, zashiki (a tatami
floored room), and a living room. She
displayed her artworks on tatami and tokonoma (a small raised alcove in a
Japanese style room with a tatami floor), or in a room with a narrow ceiling
and dim light, all of those are generally considered to be unfavorable
conditions for a good exhibition. I
recall she appeared to enjoy displaying her artworks in such rooms as if she
had been having a dialogue with them.
The style of Tamamoto is also very unique. Because of her fragile health and weak eyes from her childhood, she says
she had been living “ in a world of obscurity, ” which was a world just
with vague colors.
She could, however, recognize who was who, and made efforts so that she
could manage to perform normal daily activities. Perhaps, it happened about this time that she
was given the ability to see something not only visible but also
invisible. Then it was when she was a
junior-high school student that she regained her eyesight miraculously, and
this event turned her eyes into the world of art where she could express her
own inner world. After studying art at
high school and university, she started to work as a designer of textile and
quit her creative activities temporarily.
However, she was caught by her illness and forced to stop working. Having recovered her health, she began to
focus on her creative activities. Since
then, she has established her original style now seen in her artworks with
materials such as fabrics and threads, building on her career as a designer of
Each of Tamamoto’s work has its own clear message. Every piece depicts what she was feeling or
the situation she was in at the time when she was creating that work. “ Mantle,” the latest work, was materialized from the idea she has been
keeping since her adolescence. The black mannequin of a woman (a torso
without a head and arms) that is wearing a red lingerie is being covered by a
mantle. When I looked at it very
carefully, I saw lumps of fabrics in various colors principally black and red,
and threads intertwining each other rise and range as if they had jumped out of
the mantle. I found myself feeling
shocked somehow, and almost turned my eyes away.
“ I think women are covered by something like a mantle, ” says Tamamoto. “ Previously, I couldn’t capture its clear image and such a mantle was
just simply black to me. However, I’ve got the sense that time has come and now I can materialize my image as my work. ” For her, I think such a mantle is a symbol of
women’s ego, instinct, and pride, or mixture of all. Women generally live their life with
ambivalent emotions, and always mind what other people might think about
them. Like Tamamoto, being one of the
women in their 30s in the modern Japanese society, I can relate myself with her
work so deeply that I can sense this ambivalent feelings as my own. I desire to reveal myself, while I desire not
to. I feel this way when I look at her
works, sometime with pain and some other time with sympathy. Facing with “ Mantle, ” I remember her words: “ I’ve got the sense that time has come and now I can materialize my image as my work. ” As she puts it, I believe
Tamamoto created this work by analyzing the feelings she had at the time of
developing it. Not only “ Mantle” but also all other artworks of Tamamoto deeply touch our heart.
“ If you try to create a cape again once you get older, it might be a different one. What do you think? ” when I asked her, “ I doubt that I’ll create a cape again when I get older because I don’t think I’ll need it then, ” replied Tamamoto with a smile.
Nana Tamamoto is an artist who casts herself on her artworks. During the installation process, she develops
her exhibition while harmonizing her works with the atmosphere of the venues. I believe Tamamoto appreciates those moments
when she can develop herself by developing her own works. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the
world of Nana Tamamoto at the Gassho-zukuri houses in the village of Ainokura
as well as meeting Tamamoto herself who needs to wear a mantle now and who
won’t need it anymore in the future.
Curator, The Museum of Modern Art, Toyama