Image: Stone Lantern, Noriko Hasegawa, 1994, watercolor on paper
Stone Lantern, Noriko Hasegawa, 1994, watercolor on paper
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Plattsburgh State Art Museum
Noriko Hasegawa, Watermedia
a retrospective

FEBRUARY 26 – MARCH 27, 2011
Open Noon to 4:00 p.m. daily. Closed National Holidays

Burke Gallery, Myers Fine Arts Building.
Free and Open to the Public

Noriko Hasegawa is a watermedia painter from Sebastopol, California. Born in Japan, she moved to Plattsburgh, New York in 1971. She holds a PH.D. in Pharmacy from Tokyo University, Japan, and is a Master in the art of Japanese flower arrangement known as Ikebana. She began working in watercolor in 1981 and has studied with Serge Hollerbach, Frank Webb, and Catherine Liu. Her work has been included in exhibitions throughout the United States and received numerous awards including the Gold Medal of Honor from the Audubon Artists, New York, NY; Gold Award from the California Watercolor Association, CA; awards from National Watercolor Society exhibitions; awards from the Butler Institute of American Arts; and several others. Her work was recently on view at the National Art Center, Tokyo, Japan; the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art; LELA International exhibitions at the Pyong Teak City Museum, Korea and Museo De Arte Contemporaneo, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.
1984 1985 1986
Click to enlarge: A Day At The Gallery
A Day At The Gallery
Click to enlarge: Chrysanthemum III
Chrysanthemum III
Click to enlarge: Tree Peony III
Tree Peony III
1988 1990 1991
Click to enlarge: Koi #6
Koi #6
Click to enlarge: Chrysanthemum #11
Chrysanthemum #11
Click to enlarge: Aloe Vera #1
Aloe Vera #1
1992 1992 1992
Click to enlarge: Doors #3
Doors #3
Click to enlarge: Doors #1
Doors #1
Click to enlarge: Meconopsis
1993 1993 1993
Click to enlarge: Stairs #6
Stairs #6
Click to enlarge: Stairs #12
Stairs #12
Click to enlarge: Stairs #5
Stairs #5
1994 1994 1995
Click to enlarge: Stone Lantern
Stone Lantern
Click to enlarge: The Corner
The Corner
Click to enlarge: Koi # 95-2
Koi # 95-2
1997 1998 1998
Click to enlarge: On Sideboard
On Sideboard
Click to enlarge: Stairs
Click to enlarge: Eggs In Bowl
Eggs In Bowl
1999 1999 2000
Click to enlarge: Bowls #1
Bowls #1
Click to enlarge: On Edge
On Edge
Click to enlarge: Yesterdays News
Yesterdays News
2000 2001 2002
Click to enlarge: Tilt
Click to enlarge: Lunch Time
Lunch Time
Click to enlarge: Reading Material
Reading Material
2002 2003 2004
Click to enlarge: Whorl of Pencils
Whorl of Pencils
Click to enlarge: Suspended Motion
Suspended Motion
Click to enlarge: In the Bag
In the Bag
2004 2004 2005
Click to enlarge: White/Brown
Click to enlarge: A Stone In the Garden
A Stone In the Garden
Click to enlarge: Unbounded
2005 2005 2005
Click to enlarge: A Plate
A Plate
Click to enlarge: Morning Dew
Morning Dew
Click to enlarge: Yatsuhashi

Catalogue Essay
By D. Ren Brown
Gallery Director,
The Ren Brown Collection
Bodega Bay CA

Noriko Hasegawa is unique among contemporary watercolor artists in America. Born and raised in Japan, she always wanted to be an artist. But instead, she earned a doctoral degree in Pharmaceuticals from prestigious Tokyo University, and worked in the field for fifteen years. While still living in Japan Noriko’s artistic pursuit was limited to studying Ikebana (flower arranging) for many years, finally achieving designation as a Master.

In 1971 she moved to Plattsburgh, New York. Aside from taking care of her family, gardening became a primary focus for creativity, partly to have better access to Ikebana materials. She did not begin painting for another ten years.

Mostly self taught, Noriko’s first paintings were images of the beautiful things she knew so well--Flowers and Koi (Japanese carp). With both subjects, she focused on the effects of light. Soft gradations of shadow and glowing luminosity were central to her creations. After moving to Sebastopol California in 1987 Noriko was bold enough to ask a museum director to evaluate her work. His comments changed her artistic focus completely: “It is not difficult to find beauty in subjects that are innately beautiful. A true artist finds beauty in every day objects.”

Noriko has taken those remarks to heart. Her choice of subject constantly changes and amazes. We have seen paintings of Japanese buildings, flowers and koi fish, as well as doorways and stairs. She has a special fondness for the diverse effects of sunlight and shadow, and often paints using unorthodox viewpoints--a reflection in a mirror, looking over a railing down to the floor and an open door below, or upward into a museum’s glass display case.

She challenges herself with such mundane themes as discarded newspapers or a haphazard stack of dishes. Sometimes she will create an organic pattern by using gradations and a layering of color. Shadow areas display a wealth of subtle variations, while sunlight streaming onto a floor or a persimmon hanging to dry provide strong visual interest for the viewer.

The quality of light is the most important aspect in these works. Noriko has developed special ways of mixing paint to do this. Often she will lay down different color mixtures, then gently move the paper to allow the colors to flow and blend. The final result is softly beautiful gradations similar to the bokashi effects found in traditional Japanese woodblock prints.

Robert Flynn Johnson, former curator of the Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco has said Noriko Hasegawa excels in presenting “abstract painting in a realistic manner.” This is certainly an appropriate way to describe her work. The paintings can be appreciated for their subject matter and light treatment. But they may also be viewed simply as bold graphic displays with strong straight-edged linearity.

One of my favorite themes in Noriko’s paintings has been the koi. Having my own koi pond, I appreciate how she captures the magic of their colorful movement while also depicting light glistening off of their sides and the water surface, as well as shadows outlined on the bottom of the pool. It is quite an achievement to capture the elusive quality of light on water.

I have never seen a painting of Noriko’s that didn’t appeal on some level, yet some of the most memorable are the playful paintings of brown paper bags. She has shown them filled with discarded papers set aside for recycling, or a few special stones collected by her grandson. As with most of her work, our appreciation comes not only from the subject and the angle of view, but also the incredible array of subtle coloration in the nooks, crannies and shadows.

In viewing her work, I hope you develop as deep an appreciation for Noriko Hasegawa’s artistry as we have in the gallery over the last twenty years. This selection of paintings covers a wide range of themes, but in each her unique sensibilities shine through. I don’t know from where they may have arisen. Is it the joining of the scientific mind with the artistic, or her experiences of living in both Japan and America, or even the opposite sides of the US? But like the several large gardens she has so carefully cultivated and nurtured, so too do Noriko’s paintings grow and blossom. The viewers of both creations can only stand in true admiration.

This exhibition was funded in part by
the Student Association,
Winkel Endowment,
Friends of Art,
and the State of New York.

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