Tetsuo Fujimoto

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Design and Crafts (textiles)
Visual Arts (installation art)
Asia, Eastern
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June 28, 2003
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Machine drawings

Born in 1952, Tetsuo Fujimoto initially trained and practiced as a weaver for many years before deciding to experiment with freer forms of expression. He now creates wall hung machine embroidered textile panels in a painstaking process that is closer to the act of drawing. Layering stitch upon stitch, he creates three-dimensional surfaces that become engulfing spaces from afar yet remain elaborately textured up close.
‘I am now very interested in the fact that the universal macro world and the inner micro world seem to be alike. I am trying to make the macro and micro world coexist in one picture surface, through the linear expression of the sewing machine. The overlapping of lines leads us from the surface to the inner world...’

Born in 1952, Tetsuo Fujimoto initially trained and practiced as a weaver for many years before eventually feeling a need to escape the restrictions of the vertical and horizontal warp and weft. Experimenting with freer forms of expression, he settled on a method that is closer to the act of drawing, though it involves the use of a sewing machine.

Indeed, Fujimoto now describes his work as ‘machine drawings’. Created through a painstaking process, their completion often takes several months. The cloth is first subdivided with stitches before the sewing machine is used to ‘draw’ upon it. Stitches upon stitches are densely layered to build up a zig-zag of stitches over cloth, firstly to cover the base cloth and then to develop an extraordinary surface which ultimately becomes three dimensional.

In 2001, Fujimoto participated in the innovative UK-based ‘Textural Space’ project, originated by the Surrey Institute of Art and Design University College and partly funded by Visiting Arts. The project brought together thirteen leading contemporary Japanese textile artists and featured large-scale work that explored, in innovative ways, the three-dimensional potential of textiles within an installation format.

In the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, curator Lesley Millar describes Fujimoto’s working process:

‘The marks are laid down in a random manner creating a form of impasto or surface layering of lines that build toward to viewer. Such a dense surface texture causes considerable shrinkage, a 5 metre cloth can end up as a 4 metre finished piece.’

Another month is then spent considering the piece as a whole: pinning it up on a wall and taking it down in order to make and effect final decisions and adjustments to the density of stitch, weight of colour and movement of light across the work.

For its final presentation, it is important that the work does not lie flat against the wall. The three-dimensional nature of his work creates a sense of depth, which is accentuated by the shadows of the fabric´s folds.

Millar again: ‘For Fujimoto the fold is creating a shadow, which is of paramount importance. There is an illusion of depth in his work shaped by the intensity of stitch; by his use of the fold he is presenting us with a three-dimensional reality.’

Millar points out that the way of working that Fujimoto has devised enables him ‘to have an immediate creative response to the material and an interaction with the texture and the surface’.

Traces of Fujimoto’s training in weaving appear to survive in his current working process which, as Millar points out, ‘has some echo of the weaving of a tapestry on a large loom where the majority of the piece is wound around a roller, only the immediate area on which the weaver is working being visible until the piece is finished, unrolled and revealed’.

As a result of the ‘Textural Space’ project, Fujimoto was commissioned to create a wall hanging for The Surrey Institute of Art and Design University College. The large-scale, wall-mounted embroidered panel now hangs in the entrance to the award-winning Library & Learning Resource Centre at the Institute´s Farnham campus.

Emphasising a relation between design and space, Fujimoto´s site-specific textile panel, entitled ‘Work 01-1’, is again built up in multi-stitched layers. The final machine embroidered piece hangs in five transparent and opaque sections, covering a total area of 5.5 metres by 2.75 metres. Sections of glistening gold thread illuminate blue, silk and pellon fabric.

Fujimoto describes his work as encompassing the macro and the micro. Lesley Millar explains, ‘From a distance the work appears as a dynamic surface, from 2 metres we experience it as an engulfing space and from 15cm we see the intense layering of thread and stitch.’

Fujimoto´s work is internationally renowned and is held within the Japan Foundation, Tokyo; the Museum Bellerive, Switzerland; The National Museum of Art, Osaka and the Museum of Kyoto amongst others.

Source: Based on texts by Lesley Millar in the ‘Textural Space’ catalogue and website

Author: Diana Yeh, Visiting Arts


Tetsuo Fujimoto was born in 1952 and trained and initially worked as a weaver. He studied at the Kyoto City University of Arts and is currently a professor of art and design. He has had several solo shows in Japan and has participated in numerous group shows in Japan, USA, Australia and Europe.



Exhibition / Installation,
Canon Seminar House, Kanagawa, Japan Pentel New Office, Tokyo, Japan Osaka NCB Hotel, Japan Ichinomiya Village, Kumamoto, Japan Kyoto Garden Palace, Japan Seiryukai (Daimatsu Inc.) Kyoto, Japan


Exhibition / Installation,
Japan Foundation, Tokyo Kyoto Prefectural Sogo Shiryokan, Japan Museum Bellerive, Zurich, Switzerland The Museum of Kyoto, Japan The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan Otso City, Shiga Wakayama Prefectural Medical College, Wakayama Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art Japan Silk Village, Gunma


Exhibition / Installation,
2001 ‘Textural Space’, contemporary Japanese textile art, Foyer Gallery and James Hockey Gallery, Surrey, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Brighton, and Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, UK 2000 10th Seiryuten Dye works exhibition, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art/Meguro Museum of Art Tokyo 1999 The Contemporary View; Cloth & Clay, Moriyama Civic Hall 1999 Kyoto Textile Exhibition, Nakotomi Contemporary Craft Museum 1999 ITF International Textile Competition, Kyoto 1998 8th Seiryuten Dye works exhibition, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art 1998 ‘Imaginations ‘98’ Gastuiskapel, Poperingse, Belgium 1998 ‘Folding’ Japanese Miniatures Canberra Museum Australia 1997 The Contemporary Stitch: Japan Style, Montclair University, Ill. & touring USA 1996 Kyoto Art Craft Biennale, the Museum of Kyoto 1995, 96, 97, 98, 99 Fiber As Art, Gallery SPACE 21 Tokyo


Exhibition / Installation,
1999 Wacoal Ginza Art Space, Tokyo 1999 galerie 16, Kyoto 1997 Wacoal Ginza Art Space, Tokyo 1997 SPACE, Tokyo 1997 Gallery Nakamura, Kyoto 1996 Gallery Gallery, Kyoto



1999 Grand Prix, 6th International Textile Competition
1992, 93, 94 Special Superior Prize, Kyoto Art Crafts Biennale
1992 Fulbright Artist/Scholar in Residence
1990 K.B.S. Kyoto Prize, 42nd Kyoten
1986 Akane Prize, 38th Kyoten
1984 Mayor’s Prize,36th Kyoten
1980 Akane Prize, 32nd Kyoten
1980 Acquisition Prize, 4th Kyoto Exhibition of Crafts


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

Textural Space

Contemporary Japanese Textile Art

(01 April 01 - 31 December 01)


Textural Space

Website of ‘Textural Space’ project originated by the Surrey Institute of Art and Design University College, UK
Work 98-1 (detail)