Harumi Isobe

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beauty, earth, nature
Design and Crafts (textiles)
Visual Arts (installation art)
Asia, Eastern
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June 18, 2003
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Ethereal revelations and weighty concealments

Harumi Isobe creates wall hung woven tapestries from linen, silk, cotton and lurex. Although she began her career as a textile designer for a fabric company, she decided later to train as a tapestry weaver. Tapestry is a relatively new medium for textile artists in Japan and it is perhaps for this reason that Isobe studied overseas, settling in Sweden to further her education. Three-dimensional qualities are very important in Isobe´s works. She achieves this desired effect through various ways. Sometimes texture and colour become the key elements. Other times she creates density by folding and pleating and also by layering pieces on top of one another. As well as studying in Sweden, Isobe spent many years in England and her works incorporates differing styles and emphases that have traditionally been seen to distinguish eastern and western art. Instead Isobe combines a strongly conceptual approach with concerns for texture, structure and light. Like many of her contemporaries, Isobe´s seeks to effect harmony and beauty. In 2001, she participated in the exciting ´Textural Space´ exhibition in the UK. Featuring thirteen leading contemporary Japanese textile artists, the project was originated by the Surrey Institute of Art and Design University College and partly funded by Visiting Arts, UK. In the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, curator Lesley Millar describes Isobe´s two contributions: "The use of the gathering and ´shrinking´ of ´Earth Cardiogram´ illustrates the sensation that the earth is becoming smaller and more vulnerable, the colours of the work drawn from the shadow, the darkness. The pleats and the movement of colour are indications of fissures in the earth´s crust and also relate to cardiogram printouts." Millar also points out that Isobe´s use of light and colour draws on a wide range of experience of European artists, but remains connected to the acute aesthetic judgements of Japanese craft traditions. She writes, "The delicate colours and the transparent, fragile nature of the inlay tapestries ´Missa Flora 1 & 2´ echo her view of the transient nature of existence, the text woven within the pieces naming extinct and endangered flora. As we look through the tapestry our view of its surrounding space is tempered by the textures and text within work. These transparent works are light and ethereal in their revelation allowing the light through whereas the pleated works are extremely heavy in their concealment absorbing and reflecting the light." Source: Based on text by Lesley Millar in the ´Textural Space´ catalogue.
Author: Diana Yeh, Visiting Arts


Harumi Isobe was born in 1941. She studied at the Kyoto Hiyoshigaoka Art and Craft School and went on to work as a textile designer for a fabric company. She later decided to move to Sweden to study tapestry at the State School of Art and Design in Stockholm. She has also spent much time in the UK. She has also had solo shows in Japan and the UK and has participated in group exhibitions in the USA, Sweden and Belgium too.

Isobe is currently a lecturer at Kawashima Textile School in Japan.



Exhibition / Installation,
2001 ‘Textural Space’, Surrey Institute of Art and Design University College, UK 1999 ‘Woven Garden’ Tapestry Exhibition, Belgium 1998 ‘Revelation’, National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto 1998 ‘Revelation Miniatures’, Gallery Gallery Kyoto, Itami Museum of Art and Craft, Hyogo 1997 ‘Textile Art From Kyoto’, Gallery M, Stockholm, Sweden 1996 ‘Revelation’, toured UK 1992/93 International Tapestry Network Exhibition, toured USA 1983 Textile Exhibition, Museum of Modern Art, Gunma 1976 Fibre Works Europe/Japan, National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto, Tokyo


Exhibition / Installation,
1999 Itami Museum of Art and Craft, Hyogo 1999 Daiwa Foundation, London 1992/95/98 Gallery Maronie, Kyoto & Gallery Senbikiya, Tokyo


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’ exhibition, 2001, Surrey Institute of Art and Design University College, UK
Missa Flora