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Interview with Gyokusen Kasagi, "I continue to draw the scenery I want to see with sumi ink."

This interview with the artist is Mrs. Gyokusen Kasagi. Kasagi's work has beautiful scenes, landscapes and the world in the abstract representation of monotone painted in ink, and does not make the viewer tired. I was able to hear interesting stories about how these works were born and what they were depicted in.

”自分が見たい景色を墨で描き続ける” 笠木玉泉インタビュー

by 菱田篤司

March 23, 2020

-When did you start doing calligraphy and painting?

When my child started attending a calligraphy class, a calligraphy teacher suggested that I should try it, so I started learning from Seiun Oike of Daiyu Seihitsukai. It was about 35 years ago. I had been learning for 15 or 16 years until my teacher passed away, but I rarely practiced the model and just did the classic Rinsho. My teacher told me that I could write whatever I wanted, so I guess I worked hard on my work for the annual exhibition.

-At that time, did you feel that calligraphy had a certain appeal to you?

Yes. I don't know what it was, but it was interesting (laughs), but I forgot about it because it was a long time ago.

-I heard that you also used to draw botanical art, but did you start doing that later than calligraphy?

No, they were doing it in parallel.

-Then, when did you start drawing with sumi ink?

That was 13 or 4 years ago.

-What was the impetus for this?

Since my teacher passed away, I was free, so I thought I'd do what I liked.I was playing with Sumi ink and that's what happened (laughs). I was playing with ink and ended up drawing that kind of work (laughs).

-Did you start out drawing flowers with ink?

No, it's not.It's like now from the beginning. The size of botanical art is 1:1, isn't it? If the flowers were in front of me, I would draw them in the same size.That's why I can't draw trees in botanical art. I thought, "I want to draw a tree," and I drew three of the same thing, and when I drew the fourth, it suddenly turned into an abstraction. Oh, this is interesting! I thought.I thought that abstraction is like turning an orange into orange juice, and that's how it turned out (laughs).

-Do you have something in mind when you draw your work?

The concepts come first, and then I drop the images in my head onto the paper.

-Is it a landscape that you depict in your work?

I'm from Hokkaido, but I can't go there, can I? So in the case of a view, I'm drawing what I want to see.

-You have a work called "TOURAI-Winter Comes" - is it a landscape?

It's not so much the scenery as it is the atmosphere before winter. Winter in Hokkaido. Now it's warmer outside and inside the house, but it used to be that the air was really freezing already, and we had a birch in our yard, but in the winter it would freeze and split inside. That's how I feel. Exactly the feel of the piece.

Kasagi Yuquan winter next Gyokusen Kasagi Winter Comes monochrome painting in India ink sumi drawing

"Winter comes"

-It’s true that your work is like an image and a landscape.

When I look at a work of art, I get the impression that the ripped part of the hanging scroll is the inner wall, and the work of art is the view seen from the window, or in fact, the view beyond the window is a much larger and more expansive one.

Yes. I'm sure it is. 

- It's more like a mental image?

Yes. When I draw something scenic, it's usually Hokkaido, so I'm sure it's true. Most of the things I find beautiful are landscapes in winter. I think I'm drawing something beautiful, something I want to see.

-So it's a night scene?

You know, in the winter, it's monotone even in the daytime. A snowy landscape is black and white. It actually comes in blue, but it's not too noisy. Because the number of colors is low. It's so beautiful after a snowfall. It was beautiful during the blizzard, too.

I'm in Tokyo now, but I don't think the scenery around here is beautiful at all. The "beauty" in my head is what it was back then. Like the white mountains in the distance. As I draw, I naturally draw what I want to see.

Kasagi Yuquan west Gyokusen Kasagi To Pure Land monochrome painting in India ink sumi drawing

"To Pure Land"

-I understand that you often draw with sumi ink, but is there any particular type of ink that you use?

I like the tea ink. Blue ink doesn't have much depth. I'm going to black out the piece, aren't I? If you make it pitch black, it's hard with blue ink.

-Have you decided on the type of ink to use?

These days, when my father was in elementary and middle school, he would be 100 years old if he were alive today, but he has a lot of kids' ink that he used to buy. It's about 90 years old and comes out a lot better than the expensive new ink.

-Does the old ink make a difference?

It's not. It turns out to be a really nice color. The same ink from the same manufacturer still exists today. But compared to that, the atmosphere is totally different. The way the glue spreads and the colors become calmer.

-Is it something you aim for in your works?

Of course. That's not why the film is the way it is. However, it's boring if it's within the target range. It's interesting to see what's out of the target range.

The color may look very dark, but it's darkened with many coats of thin ink, so the black has more depth. If you apply thick ink at once, the glue will float and become shiny and shiny. So if you put that dark black in one shot, the black will come out.

-How do you layer the detailed patterns?

Everyone is like, "How did you do this? You'd say. How did you do it? It would be nice if they said, "This is amazing. (laughs)

- I heard that one of the curators liked your work and that it was traveling around the world, but when did this start?

It was about five years ago, I think. When he took some of his works to Europe, they were well received, and from then on they started taking them in one after another. It's not an exhibition in a gallery, it's all shown in some sort of curated exhibition in a public art gallery or museum. He said that the first piece he took with him has not come back to Japan yet, but that he is planning to exhibit it in Albania and then go to Russia. There are a lot of works that I haven't come back to in over 5 years (laughs).

-Is there anything you would like to do in the future?

There are so many things I want to paint. I want to continue to paint. I want to draw something that people haven't seen before.

-Thank you very much for your time today.


It was an invaluable time for me, as I gained a deeper understanding of what the work expresses. Although she is unable to go out for some reasons, she draws her works in order to see "the scenery she wants to see" and "beautiful things", sometimes they are abstract mental landscapes, sometimes they are figurative expressions of concepts, and at first glance it is difficult to understand what they represent. Kasagi's work is a gateway and a window into a beautiful world. It's interesting to think that by decorating your work, you have a window on the wall of your home where you can see another world.


>Watch a list of works

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