Mayuko Ono Gray: This Too, Shall Pass

Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts

Aug. 11, 2024 - Sep. 24, 2022

51 Sheboygan Street
Fond du Lac, 54935
PHONE 920 921-5410

“Reflecting a life which is both culturally Japanese and American, my graphite drawings hybridize influences from traditional Japanese calligraphy combined with Western drawing practices and aesthetics. Ejected out of Japan at the age of 18 with full of curiosity and no fear, swallowed by America, nearly dead, my works emerge from my experiences of displacement, immigration, deportation, love, trauma, the crush of motherhood, failed relationships and other meaningful encounters with the unknowable. My current works investigate and examine the unknowable through both images and proverbs.

Growing up in Japan, every Saturday afternoon was spent with my Sensei, a calligraphy master who would assign words for each of us to practice. We would spend hours producing copies of the Sensei’s sample. The goal was to imitate the sample, paying attention to the line quality, the varying speed, the pressure and angle of the brush movement. The handling of the brush had to become rhythmic and graceful.

At high school age, in preparation to entrance exam to art university in Japan, I had to take private lessons to learn drawing with graphite and charcoal practicing techniques such as chiaroscuro and sfumato. Saturday afternoons were then spent at a Western style art studio with pedestals, still lifes, and white marble copies of Roman busts instead of tatami mat calligraphy studio sitting on the floor. The fluid ink was replaced with malleable graphite and ephemeral charcoal. The wet immediacy of calligraphic line was replaced with illusionistic volumes meticulously rendered. Instead of going through dozens of rice papers in a session, one sheet of high-quality cotton paper was given to work on. But I never applied to college there.

Traditional Asian art-forms have often integrated word and image, and my interest and practice also follow the path in my unique way. In my current works, I mostly use images of persons, animals, and still lifes captured in my banal daily experiences. A Japanese proverb accompanies each work, spelling out the hiragana and kanji, characters intertwine to create a single line which has only one entrance and one exit. The calligraphic line begins at the top right and ends toward the bottom left of the page, following traditional Asian writing. The single line going through a pictorial plane is a metaphor of a life: one entrance as birth of physical body, and one exit as death and loss of physical body, and all the complicated experiences during existence between these two.”

Galleries are free to view:

Monday – Friday: 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday: 10 am – 3 pm
Closed on Sundays

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