Fujimura Sails into SU with ‘Golden Sea’

“I try to get to the invisible. I try to get to things that are difficult to describe but nevertheless are enduring; some part of our experiences that we never forget.” This is what artist, writer, speaker and scholar Makoto Fujimura has to say about his work. His abstract paintings have been exhibited in galleries around the world. This Wednesday, April 16, he will be traveling to Seattle University to speak with students about his work. Fujimura will lecture on and present “Golden Sea,” a short documentary based on his journey as an artist in the U.S. and Japan. “As a bicultural and bilingual person, you end up hovering between two cultures and not fitting into either of them,” Fujimura said. “I’ve learned to appreciate that about myself, and that’s what I try to convey through my art.” Created by Plywood Pictures, “Golden Sea” is named after a culmination painting by Fujimura. In the documentary, Fujimura said his “Golden Sea” painting “has every element that I’ve ever attempted to capture. It has the integration of ideas and visual themes that I have explored all my life.” The documentary features interviews with Fujimura, as well as his mentor from Tokyo University of the Arts, art historians, gallery owners and other colleagues. Fujimura’s bicultural arts education enabled him to become very experienced in Nihonga (literally “Japanese-style painting”), which adheres to traditional Japanese artistic conventions, materials and techniques dating back to the 12th century. Fujimura described his painting technique as “layers of minerals, gold and silver placed on top of paper or silk mixed with hide glue [animal-skin glue]. It harkens back to medieval illuminations, traditions and so many other ways artists have expressed themselves.” Fujimura also draws inspiration from 16th century Japanese art, which was influenced by China and Korea as well as by Christian missionaries from other countries. “It’s a fantastic mixture of influences, and Japanese culture became what it is because of that conversation,” he said. The need to embrace and preserve culture is a key theme present throughout Fujimura’s paintings, writings and lectures. From 2003 to 2009, Fujimura worked as a Presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts, serving as an international advocate for the arts and advising governmental policies on the arts. “I want to be able to speak into the global dialogue and also pay attention to the indigenous culture and indigenous crafts and materials that we need to preserve,” Fujimura said. He also founded the Fujimura Institute, which encourages artists and thinkers to collaborate and inspire their audiences to create a unified, beautiful world. He urges people to change from the “Culture War” mindset to a “Culture Care” mindset, which embraces art as an essential component of culture that must be

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nourished. “Rather than polarizing and demonizing each other, we need to find out what we share in common and then cultivate that to a broader global dialogue,” Fujimura said. “All of us can be part of creating beauty.” “Fujimura is an important voice to help us get back to the roots of what art is about,” said Fr. Trung Pham, S.J., Assistant Professor of Visual Art at Seattle U and coordinator for Fujimura’s appearance on campus. “Art is not just for commodity or frenzy or some kind of market. He’s promoting the spiritual dimension of art, which sometimes gets lost.” Fujimura combines traditional Japanese painting techniques with elements of abstract expressionism and other contemporary art in order to create unique, vivid and meaningful pieces. His paintings’ abstract nature enables him to capture the emotion of beautiful, fleeting moments which are beyond words or worldly images. “We treasure those experiences; those things are sacred,” Fujimura said of his abstract influences. “There are no words to adequately capture them, so you need abstraction; you need a different language to capture them.” For Fujimura, that language is art. “I hope when people see my work, they are able to feed their souls and to value these intangible things,” he said. Fujimura’s creativity is also influenced by his Christian faith, though his paintings are accessible to both religious and nonreligious viewers. “He’s articulating something both the art world and the Church need to hear,” Pham said, adding that Fujimura is helping to bridge the gap between modern art and Christianity. Fujimura recently did artwork for The Four Holy Gospels Bible, which he described as “a very historic, demanding work of five major paintings with 89 letter-head paintings and 148 pages of illuminations.” Pham said he hopes Fujimura’s diverse work as an artist, writer, and cultural shaper will inspire students to realize the bigger role of art in maintaining a just, humane and beautiful world. “To be successful you need to exercise all the gifts and talents you have in different directions,” Pham said. “Art is not just in a studio. Art is about collaborating, about dialoguing, about getting your inside out there.” Fujimura’s lecture and “Golden Sea” documentary viewing will take place in Bannan Auditorium on Wednesday, April 16, at 7 p.m.