Nihonga originates approximately in the year 600 A.C. This mode of painting worked it’s way into Japan, by way of India, China and Korea through the advent of Buddhism. Originally, Nihonga was developed as a mode of religious representation for Buddhist icons, but over time was integrated as a painting methodology by artists. The method utilizes ink, paper, brushes and mineral pigments. The stones and earth are ground to fine powders of different densities. Each powdered pigment is prepared as needed, and mixed in a porcelaine bowl with a luke-warm binder (animal resin) and cold water.
Each substance exhibits its own particularities. The level of humidity, the surrounding temperature, even the mood of the practitioner has an effect on the material. Distinct in nature and density, the substances cannot be mixed together, but are applied in successive layers, keeping in mind their relative opacity or transparency.
The painting support is generally Kozo, a Japanese paper made of long and strong fibres. The paper is bonded on wood or canvas. Gold leaf, silver leaf (copper, iron or other metals) can be integrated along with the application of the pigments.
From earth to colour
Primary man, primitive in his means but not in his essence, knew how to grab the raw colours from his environment and transform them into the first pictorial representations. The concept and development of From earth to colours proceeds from an actual work process in which I explore the primitive memory of the changes in earth and the legends of humanity. The colours of the earth, permanent and shifting, have been ever present in the Appalachian geology, and the subtle properties of the mineral pigments reveal an essential luminosity. This light, the bearer of Beauty, is characteristic of a deep-rooted artistic language which links the past, the present and the future.
I am a practitioner of the ancient Nihonga method – which ensues from the Japanese tradition, using earth colours – and, in these paintings, I propose a content made up of colour and light. This luminous colour *echoes ancient times when colour preceded form and functioned to rupture space: to mark a plane – or to measure an infuse abyss.
These paintings arise out of my explorations to maximise the inherent properties of dolour-matter, and to exploit its fullest richness and evocative power. The earth yields the crystals Azurite and Malachite which are finely ground to produce blue and green hues; tiger-eye transforms into an amber-brown coloured hue, other clays and red iron oxides exhibit and opaque density which play on the satiny shimmer of Mica or iridescent Mother of Pearl and, on the dark profound blue of Indigo, the only vegetal colour used. The mineral flakes: silver, copper and golden telluric fragments, float into view creating elusive realities by disturbing areas of opacity with their shimmering reflections.
As the earth matter glides on the surface, merging and interweaving, its colours are suspended on the surface of the painting because of the binder- an organic resin – and water. Thus, these rudimentary earth pigments, combining with essential liquids, yield these paintings, From earth to colours
Download Nihonga’s history in pdf format