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© SASAI Fumie


2015 Catalogue of Solo Exhibition at Galerie Mizen, by Michel Maucuer

SASAI Fumie was born in 1973 in Yao city, located in Osaka prefecture. In 1992, she attended Kyoto City University of Arts specializing in lacquer technique with the renowned professors : Dr. KURIMOTO Natsuki, Dr. MOCHIZUKI Shigenobu as well as Dr. SHINKAI Gyokuho, an important representative of lacquer decorative arts of his time.

The art of lacquering is an ancient tradition in Japan. So far, the most ancient lacquered objects were found in that country, dating from the Jomon period. Japanese lacquers have always been considered to have the best quality to such an extent that, in English language, the word japanning became synonym for the art of lacquer s much as china, originally from China, became synonym for porcelain.The art of lacquer was originally diffused in Japan for its inherent character, even though this material demands a lot of works; its lengthy handling results in pieces that are light and sturdy at the same time, with waterproof and thermal insulation properties. This is a luxurious material perfectly suited to the customs of an ancient Japanese aristocracy, eventually becoming more popular amongst others classes of the society from the middle ages onwards.

SASAI Fumie has studied different traditional techniques, including dry lacquer on wood (monkushin kanshitsu) or dry hollow lacquer(dakkatsu kanshitsu): this technique was particularly used during 7th and 8th centuries AD, dating from the Hakuho and Nara periods for the manufacturing of Buddist sculptures.
The technique consists of a piece of cray being covered with several layers of textiles previously impregnated with a lacquer mixture; these layers are superimposed with lacquer mixed with other materials followed by other layers of colored lacquer applied one by one, each of them being allowed to dry completely before the application of the following layer. When the final layer is done, the clay frame can be removed. Nowdays, polystyrene substitutes clay to give form to shapes, but the technique remains the same.

If we disregard religious art, it was only after the 1940’s that lacquer decorative arts emerged amongst other arts and crafts movements in Japan. However, decorative arts have a long history in the country. Okimono is a specific Japanese term for decorative objects, literally meaning “object for display” - this term seems to have already been used during the Heian period, even though it was long after until the use of okimono has been observed when Japanese interiors were decorated with a central shelving unit(tana),or built-in desks(shoin, oshiita), evolving into an alcove(toko, tokonoma). Subsequently the okimono became an important element in interior design. Items such an incense holders, ancient writing tools or traditional tea sets; all precious objects such as these could be used as indoor ornaments(kazari). Some of SASAI Fumie’s sculptures remind us of ancient objects such as peach-shaped lacquered cake boxes(jikiro) or imaginary fish-shaped warrior helmets by instance.

From these ancient productions, SASAI Fumie’s work have the power to suggest a poetic evocation or good luck: in this way for example, eggplant means success because in Japanese, nasu is pronounced in the same way as 《to become》; peach on the other hand, coming from a Chinese tradition, is associated with long life as well as a Taoist legends, And finally, the khaki fruit brings to mind a famous painting by Muqi(Jap, Mokkei), a famous Buddhist Master from Hangzhou, which is preserved in the zen Daitokuji temple in Kyoto.

SASAI Fumie introduces contemporary shapes as well, sometimes suggesting Manga heroes or comic heroes. SASAI Fumie’s work pays homage to lacquer as a material and as a technique likewise.To preserve the material’s feeling, SASAI Fumie doesn’t pollsh the surface of the pieces, nor does she add any additional layer of transparent lacquer in order to avoid changing the finish with a shiny aspect. The application of lacquer must be done in a very careful manner to avoid brush marks or dust particles. Simple value to lacquer as a material.

In Japanese culture, simplicity and design are the symbol of clarity(meikai 明快). In one of SASAI Fumie’s previous works series named Kodomo(children in Japanese), the work suggests some children figures representing at the same time the artist’s own children. Some samples of her new work relate to strange shapes inspires by fruits, flowers or animals and are named 《beloved》. The artist says that in Thailand, where she lived for two years as a resident-artist, the words《lacquer》 and 《love》 are pronounced in the same manner. Life – modern life, infant life, life in metamorphosis and transformation – are the main topics of the works of SASAI Fumie, who wants to create some 《living creatures》 looking for germination. There is something sensual, erotic and romantic in the vitality of these opened pods, or ready to open pods.

The shape, the aspect, the color of some of her pieces reminds us of the pleats in a red silk kimono resting over an empty body. Sometimes, it represents the body itself.

From spring 2014, SASAI umie began to be interested by the traditional Japanese kimono. She focused particularly on the over layering of clothing(kasane).She was also interested in knotting(musubi)as another theme. The color of red lacquer, its smooth texture – its silky nature – and the very technique a kind of clothing art - when observing some compositions from the artist, we deduce a relationship with ancient red silk underwear, a traditional garment worn by ladies from the Heian period Court.

Soon after, the artist also began to work with experts in traditional basketry, porcelain, or even gold leaf painting technique(kirikane) or gold powder painting(makie) and the result of these collaborations were exposed in the Autumn 2014.

For the exhibition at the MIZEN gallery in paris this coming April, SASAI Fumie will showcase some samples of her work with lacquer associated with bamboo basketry, a natural material which is also used to make simple daily objects as well as decorative sacred objects in Japan, evoking the notion of 《party》(hare).

Michel Maucuer is Chief Curator at the Asiatic Arts National Museum Guimet.