Stone Lantern, Noriko Hasegawa, 1994, watercolor on paper
Noriko Hasegawa, Watermedia
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.
Catalogue Essay |
By D. Ren Brown
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,
Friends of Art,
and the State of New York.