œIntroduction( April, 26th, 2003 in Antigua, Guatemala)

As of today 26 April, I have lived in here in Antigua for just 6 months. I really adore this town because many things here are so fantastic. To me Antigua is a very special place which is influenced by Western culture. When I walked on the streets and saw the churches and the other buildings, I discovered a mixture of cultures that is fresh and which surprised me. Living in Antigua as a painter, walking in this town, and visiting other places in Guatemala and neighboring countries, the art has impressed me as has the nature and the culture of these places. These impressions have given me fantastic inspiration.

For a long time, I have been interested in the ancient civilizations of the American Continent. I think that in the arts and cultures of the Americas there are strong similarities with that of the Orient. This view appears to have some logic because it is said that the first ancient Americans were mongoloid and came from Eurasia. Possibly this is the reason that I feel a kind of nostalgia about the history of ancient America.

Some of the mythology and belief (animism) in American civilizations were almost the same as that in Japan before the introduction of Buddhism. Also the spiral decorations of the Maya that seem to express snakes, are similar to the decoration that can be seen on earthenware etc. from the Jhomon period (BC100-BC4) in Japan. The spiral form is a natural form for me which appears in my work when I reflect the feelings in my heart. I have often painted these forms.

As well, the Mayan forms of writing and 'Kanji' (Chinese, Korean and Japanese characters) have in common that they are all hieroglyphs. Kanji was developed in China following the arrival before 1000 B.C. of documents using Kanji. The hieroglyphs were changed to make them more simple and practical than the original forms which were more like pictures. Kanji was then introduced into Korea and Japan. For a long time changes continued in these countries using the characters finally resulting in the modern forms. In the case of Japan, we have two other types of characters in addition to Kanji. These are 'Hiragana' and 'Katakana' which are simpler than Kanji and are phonetic like in the roman alphabet. Because by comparison Kanji is a hieroglyphic form it has not changed much since it was introduced to Japan. We have almost 2000 characters in Japanese Kanji and almost all of them are comparable to the characters of Chinese Kanji although the Chinese characters are simplified. Some of the Chinese Kanji characters are also phonetic as is the case with some Mayan hieroglyphs.

We have in Japan a form of art called 'Shodou' which is a type of calligraphy. In the world of 'Shodou' Chinese brush and ink is used on paper. It explores great beauty and the sincerity of spirit in the forms used and in the various tones of black in the characters. Also the composition of tones of black and the use of space is very important as are the forms, colors and the composition of the signature and seal of the artist. Some colors of vermilion and some of gold are generally used for the signature and seal. Kanji is a very familiar thing for us. Because of this it seems natural that I am interested in Mayan hieroglyphics and feel some attachment with these representations.

The series of Mayan hieroglyphs in this exhibition were chosen because they seemed important in the world of the spirits of the Maya and especially because they express this feeling in my view. I chose the Kanji characters because they express the same feelings as each Mayan hieroglyph.

Additionally, Mayan people have some religious beliefs in relation to the sun, the moon, and the stars. This is similar in Japan. For example, referring to the story about a rabbit on the moon, we in Japan have a similar story. In particular, I was much inspired by the interest and knowledge that the Maya had about the stars, just as European people were greatly interested in astronomy and alchemy. I painted the series of the sun, the moons and the stars drawing on this inspiration.

For me, the churches in Antigua and others I have found elsewhere are not only of the Baroque style but also seem to have something of the Mayan style. The atmosphere created by these churches is mysterious and fascinating. I adore this atmosphere so much. Also I am very interested in the people here who deeply believe in god. The art and the culture of Christianity is very unique. In this regard, I can see a strong relationship with the occident (the West).

In Japan we have a strong relationship with the occident as well. The first exchange with occidental culture was in the 16th century. Later, the Japanese administration of Hideyoshi Toyotomi decided to institute national isolation to protect the independence of Japan. For this reason Japanese culture was unique in its development until the end of the era of 'ido' (1603 - 1867). After this, occidental culture was introduced strongly and rapidly into Japan. Although Christianity did not have a strong influence, we can't make mention of modern Japan, the government, the industry, the culture etc. without looking to the influence of the occident.

In this respect, the mixture of Continental American and occidental cultures has made a unique@world that is quite different from the result of mixing the cultures of the occident and Japan. I have found this cultural mixing to be fascinating and I have been greatly influenced and surprised.

In this exhibition I display works originating from these various impressions and inspirations as the view of a Japanese foreigner. They are fundamentally made with the Japanese technique and feeling which I have developed in Japan. I note that in place of certain special products which I could not obtain here I have used acrylic paints. It has been a good experience to be able to try new techniques for this exhibition.

I am profoundly grateful to Mr Pedro Luis Palomo, my best friend in Antigua, and to the members of Taller 4 and all the people who have helped me with this exhibition.

Fumiyo Yoshikawa


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