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Tomoyuki Kambe is a Japanese artist who works mostly with natural materials in his artworks, and they usually depict scenes in nature. His works exude calmness and serenity and the same can be said for his working methods and working philosophy. The artist was born near a river in Gifu (the Nagara river I think) and takes the river as his main source of inspiration for his paintings.

Here are a few of his works:

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Tomoyuki Kambe_Swirl

The artist remarked that he thought these goldfishes of different colours of yellows, reds, and blacks, portray how he though the world should be. To him, the world should be a place which is filled with diversity.

Tomoyuki Kambe_At his usual place

Tomoyuki Kambe_The future when I don't look yet

I believe just as the world is made up of multitude of microscopic creatures, and similarly, our society draws on a variety of smaller components for direction and shape. 

~Tomoyuki Kambe

When painting a picture of crabs, like the one below for instance, the artist will first go to the river to catch some crabs and observe them for a period of time. After that he will start to work on his paintings with the help of assistants.

Tomoyuki Kambe_ Personal Space

A member of the audience asked “What do you do with the animals after that? Do you eat them?”

The artist laughed and waved his hands in the air and replied “I cannot”. He said something along the lines of all life, no matter how small, is sacred. He says that he sometimes names the animals and keeps them as pets. He thus has a lot of animals in his house, both live ones and preserved ones.

Here are some of the materials which the artist uses

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The artist talked about a kind of Japanese paint called Iwaenogu. It can be made by grinding different minerals (both natural and synthetic ones), and then mixed with an animal protein called Nigawa which acts as the solvent for the grinded minerals. Although the number of colour sources is limited, various colour tones are obtained by grinding down the pigment; the finer the grains, the lighter the shade produced. If you’re really interested, I scanned in the handout they gave out and you can look at it for more infomation. They are so considerate to give out handouts!

There are apparently different kinds of Iwaenogu, having different rarity and prices.

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These are some samples of grinded minerals.

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After that the artist demonstrated a method of how he applies gold foil to his works using nigawa(animal protein). Here’s a video of that

Another way he applied it was to place the gold foil into a bamboo tube fitted with a metal gauze at the end. He used a brush to push the gold foil against the metal gauze and made gold sprinkles which can again be stuck onto the paper using nigawa.

He asked for volunteers to try out applying the gold foils, and they got to keep the paper with gold foil on it after that!

There were also sculptural pieces done by some potters on display around the room.

Here is the artist’s site

I really liked the artist’s works and his working methods. He’s really respectful of all life forms, and I think it is interesting how he compares animals to human society. Also, when asked how much does a piece of his work cost, the artist replied that he is only interested in making the artwork, but not in the financial aspects.

On a side note, it is also interesting how the english translation of the title his works, which sometimes sound grammatically wrong, help to retain and enhance the cultural flavour which his works have.

The artist is having an exhibition at the Mandarin Gallery for about a month or so. Do visit!

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