Tea in Itoshima

Tea Seas (Red) detail.
Tea Seas (Red) detail.

It is nearly the end of February and I am now half way through my artist residency at Studio Kura in Itoshima, Japan. It has been an interesting and experience so far, and has pushed the boundaries my artistic comfort zone. I have set myself the challenge of working with a new set of materials – powdered pigments and rice paper. Having quizzed the very helpful but non-English speaking staff at the art supplies store, I now have a set of instructions, mostly in the form of drawings, for how to mix and use the pigments.

All the beautiful colours of powdered pigments.

I am living in a traditional Japanese house, which seems to be built entirely from wood and paper. It does not hold the heat at all, and I often have to open all the doors and windows to let in the warmer-than-inside winter air. The residency is in a semi-rural area, surrounded by farms, forests and ocean. I have taken up weekly Japanese language classes in town, but am making painfully slow progress!

Working on a painting in the studio while one of the other residency artists films my paintbrush.
Working on a painting in the studio while one of the other residency artists films my paintbrush.

During the two months of my residency, I am exploring the theme of tea. Japan is renown through out the world for its tea culture, and as an avid tea drinker myself, I just had to come and find out more about what tea means to people in contemporary Japan.

I see tea as a very human beverage. It embodies society, community, hospitality and ritual – social elements that are key to our human existence. Tea is a way to connect with people and open conversations on a domestic scale, but tea can also present a connection to the human existence on far a greater stage.

The water in your cup of tea is just one part of the finite quantity of water we have on Earth. This water changes form, but it is never replenished. The water in your teacup is the same water that that flowed in the blood of dinosaurs, and it is the same water from a primordial sea, which may have nursed the first living cells on Earth. If this water could remember, it would remember all of humanity from the earliest living cells to the complex, tea drinking, societies that we have today.

My work from the residency program will be exhibited in the Studio’s gallery, housed in a converted, one hundred year old rice silo, in late March. I’ll keep you posted with the details!

"24 Cups of Tea" (detail)
“24 Cups of Tea” (detail)