Weaving the thread
between the cosmos and the everyday
Naomi Kobayashi uses materials such as Japanese paper, cotton and paper thread to create installations that meditate upon and give powerful expression to the cycles of life, death and regeneration. An established artist in her own right, she has recently collaborated with her husband, artist Masakazu Kobayashi to create installations made up of a series of separate pieces that reflect their interests in space, harmony and light.
‘The intention of my recent works, then, is to communicate the unity of the never-ending providence of nature; the cycle of life; the eternal cycles of the universe.’
Naomi Kobayashi uses materials such as Japanese paper, cotton and paper thread to create installations that meditate upon and give powerful expression to the cycles of life, death and regeneration. Born in 1945, she studied at the Musashino Art University in Tokyo, Japan between 1965 and 1969. Her training in textile printing and weaving shines through in her works as she weaves, sometimes with shredded paintings and texts.
The artist lives in a mountainous area near Kyoto and her surroundings have a strong influence upon her works. It is not only the natural environment that makes her deeply conscious of ‘the cycles of nature and my own place in the universe’, however. The intimate space of her home is equally important, and it was her husband Masakazu Kobayashi, also an established artist, who built their house.
Comprising a living area and a workspace, the house reflects the Kobayashis’ feeling for and about space, light and harmony. Its architectural design embodies concepts of particularity and universality that are fundamental to their work.
Indeed, although both husband and wife are independently acclaimed artists, they have chosen to exhibit together in recent years. Although this allows them to give joint expression to their shared philosophy, they still create works separately and only after the completion of individual pieces do they then bring them together in a collaborative act.
Both artists have exhibited widely on an international level, and in 2001 they participated in the exciting ‘Textural Space’ project in the UK, which was originated by the Surrey Institute of Art and Design University College, UK and partly funded by Visiting Arts, UK. The touring exhibition provided a chance for a British audience to appreciate the works of thirteen leading contemporary textile artists from Japan. Selected for display were works that explored and experimented with the three-dimensional potential of textiles within an installation format.
The Kobayashis’ contribution to the exhibition contained several distinct but related units. Naomi Kobayashi exhibited a ‘white circle’, which had been constructed from twisted paper thread and Washi (Japanese paper). The delicate materials employed, combined with a skilful use of natural sources of light, created a sense of weightlessness.
As the curator of the project Lesley Millar writes in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, ‘The circle both contains light and allows light to pass through, seeming to generate a luminous surface encompassing the many colours of white.’
Although complementing each other, the works of husband and wife were quite radically different, as Millar pointed out. She writes, ‘Where Masakazu’s work gives the appearance of random movement, Naomi’s circle creates a sense of stillness.’
This stillness could be interpreted as part of the artist’s concern with the unchanging cycles of life. Millar suggests that ‘there is an intention to draw on the eternal cycles of life, death and regeneration inherent in the basic form of the circle, creating an equilibrium with its surroundings.’ Highlighting the threads holding the circle together, she argues that these are intended to be ‘symbolic of the link between the cosmos and our everyday life’.
Next in line in the Kobayashi’s installation are five woven pieces by Naomi. Taking paintings she has made, Kobayashi then tore them in to strips in order to weave them into a landscape. Millar points out the dynamic quality of the work, which is created through ‘the act of weaving causing the image to move slightly giving the undulating flow across the five works.’ She continues, ‘The suspended cube form carries the visual impetus from the floor based circle to the wall based weavings.’
Naomi Kobayashi also included her work ‘Kaku 2000’, which comprises three works in Perspex boxes. Each piece has been woven from calligraphic Buddhist texts written on handmade paper by the artist’s mother, which has then been recycled and spun into threads. Millar discusses the conditions of display that are crucial to this work: ‘The work is displayed to deliberately allow the viewer to see both sides – the flat and the textured, the concealed and the revealed.’
Millar suggests that this is equally important to Kobayashi’s last piece in the exhibition, ‘Ito Kukan’, which features two white boxes. She writes, ‘In the circle piece the light is allowed to pass through whereas in ‘Ito Kukan’ the paper absorbs and reflects the light. It is essential that the angle of the work in relation to the wall is seen in such a way that the cast shadow forms a distinct indicator of the illusory three dimensional nature of the work. The substance and the shadow, the positive and the negative, what is there and what is not there.’
Since 1981 Kobayashi has had many solo exhibitions in Japan and has participated in numerous international group shows. She has also won two awards for her work and many of her pieces are held in public collections worldwide.
Source: Based on text by Lesley Millar in the ‘Textural Space’ catalogue and website
Author: Diana Yeh, Visiting Arts
Naomi Kobayashi was born in 1945. She studied at the Musashino Art University in Tokyo, Japan between 1965 and 1969, specialising in textile printing and weaving. Since 1981 she has had many solo exhibitions in Japan and has participated in numerous international group shows. An established artist in her own right, she has recently collaborated with her husband, artist Masakazu Kobayashi. They live and work near Kyoto.
Exhibition / Installation,
Central Museum of Textiles, Lodz, Poland
Association Pierre Pauli, Switzerland
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Holland
Savaria Museum, Szombathely, Hungary
The Museum of Contemporary Art of Merelia Mexico
Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, USA
The Museum of Bellerive, Zurich, Switzerland
American Craft Museum, New York, USA
The Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri, USA
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK
The Israel Museum, Israel
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York USA
Gunma Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, Gunma NAOMI
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS 1995–2001
Exhibition / Installation,
2001 ‘Textural Space’, organised by Surrey Institute of Art and Design University College, UK, toured UK
2000 ‘Sound from Cosmos-2000’, Gunma Museum of Modern Art, Gunma
1999 ‘3rd International Trienniale of Paper’, Viviane Fontaine 1999, Charmey Museum Switzerland
1999 ‘70 Designers in Tribute to Issika Gaon’, the Israel Museum, Israel
1999 ‘6th International Textile Competition’, Kyoto
1999 ‘SOFA’ New York
1999 ‘Handmade: Shifting Paradigms’, Singapore Art Museum
1999 ‘Blue Moon’, Pulse Gallery, Tokyo
1999 ‘Modern Design Collection’, The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York USA
1998 ‘Imaginations ´98´’ Gastuiskapel, Poperinge, Belgium
1998 ‘Folding, Japanese Miniatures’ Canberra Museum Australia
1998 ‘The Holland Paper Biennale’, Rijswijk Museum, Holland
1998 ‘SOFA’, New York and Chicago
1998 ‘Structure & Surface – Contemporary Japanese Textile’, Museum of Modern Art New York and touring
1998 ‘Tradition Transformed’, The Brown/Grotta Gallery USA
1998 ‘Oriented Textile’, William Lipton Ltd. New York, USA
1997 ‘Fibre Art in the 90´s’, New Jersey Centre for Visual Arts, NJ, USA
1997 ‘The 10th Wave: A Celebration’, The Brown/Grotta Gallery CT. USA
1997 ‘Textile Art from Kyoto’, Gallery M, Stockholm, Sweden
1996 ‘Textile Magicians in Japan’, Passage de Retz, Paris France
1996 ‘Textile of Japan’, Meguro Prefecture Museum, Tokyo
1996 ‘Paper Road’, The Art and Craft Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark
1996 ‘Textile Wizard from Japan’, The Israel Museum, Israel
1995 ‘Soft Sculpture’, Dongah Art Gallery, Seoul, Korea
1995 ‘Sheila Hicks joined by Seven Friends and Colleagues from Japan’, The Brown/Grotta Gallery, CT USA
Exhibition / Installation,
1993 Gallery Gallery, Kyoto Japan
1992 Wacoal Ginza Art Space, Tokyo Japan
1990 AD & A Gallery, Osaka, Japan
1989 Gallery Space 21, Tokyo Japan
1988 Marronnier Gallery, Kyoto Japan
1987 Gallery Gallery, Kyoto Japan
1987 Marronnier Gallery, Kyoto Japan
1986 Gallery Gallery, Kyoto Japan
1985 Gallery Gallery, Kyoto Japan
1981 ‘4th International Textile Triennale’, Lodz, Poland, Gold
1989 ‘International Textile Competition’, Kyoto, Outsider Award
This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.
Contemporary Japanese Textile Art
(01 April 01 - 31 December 01)