Sunday, September 10, 2017

Scroll #2: Strange Kanji
by Jennifer Gould
My latest work involves using red twig dogwood (osier) to create my own  Chinese characters that are used in writing Japanese, called かんじ (kanji).

I have a long association with Japan, starting in 1971-72 when I was a student in Tokyo at Waseda University's International Division.  When I returned to the US and Hope College (Holland MI) as a senior, I met my future husband who had been born and raised in Tokyo.  His mother, now at 94 and almost 95 on November 2, is still lively just very, very hard of hearing.

I have been fascinated with nature and the world of trees, leaves, flowers, insects (as long as they're outside, not in my home) and clouds.  In other words, the biosphere or the environment and our place in it.

Leaves, especially, have a large part in my artwork as seen in my Square Headed Women and the Flower Packet Folding Books I've made.

I had pruned a volunteer Red Twig Dogwood in my terraced garden behind my house one autumn after the leaves had fallen.  They looked so fascinating that I stored them in my garage during the winter.  I realized that was an excellent decision to have made because it gave the twigs time to shrink.  I've just cut more, even though it's still warm weather with leaves on the trees, but I may have to use some of the twigs soon, as I will explain.

In the Wildwood: Winter
by Jennifer Gould
My first attempt at using the osier twigs was in 2014 on a doll that I felt exemplified my feelings about winter:  cold, brittle, white and gray, but with the beauty of some of nature shining through, such as the osier twigs.  I made 3-piece and 4-piece twig frames bound together with dark red thread and piled down and around the figure.  Unfortunately when ever I was at a show in which this piece was displayed, there were always broken frames; or I'd get the piece back with numerous broken frames in the box....

So I took the twig frames off the figure and have looked at them for a number of years trying to figure out how to use them.

In the meantime, I visited my mother-in-law last October (see all of my Postcards from Japan from Oct. 12-Nov. 9, 2016 in this blog).  Before and after this trip, I visited Kanji-A-Day daily to study so I can read friends' letters, magazines and more.  I love Japanese and Chinese calligraphy and kanji.  In fact, that's probably one of the major reasons I decided I wanted to go to Japan to study.  But there are some really odd and weird looking kanji such as:  mouse,  egg

I started playing with the broken pieces and realized they made some very odd shapes that looked rather like kanji to me.  These developed into the above Scroll #2: Strange Kanji.  I had made a previous one, my first attempt at making a Japanese scroll, using Japanese postage stamps and kimono/obi fabric.  

So, my current project is working on individual fabric wrapped rectangles that have twigs couched down to form my own imagined kanji.  These so far include these three at left.

I'm working on a piece which will have these individual rectangles of kanji placed in a row hanging vertically down the wall.  My vision is wonderful.  I'll see if the final piece is what I imagined!


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