Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Works of Mieko Ishikawa by Tara Davis

I chose Mieko Ishikawa by browsing a botanical art book, Plant: Exploring the Botanical World, published by Phaidon Press Ltd.. Much of the botanical art by various artists were beautiful, especially watercolours and strange prints like radiographic scans. Mieko’s watercolor piece, “Acorns from Brunei” 1997, caught my eye - specifically the spatial arrangement of the acorns and stark variance in textures. She successfully “captures the contrasting textures of the hard, shiny surface of the nuts and the rough outer cupule” (Clarke, 2016, p.131). As is said in the book, Ishikawa really achieved making them appear like jewels. Apparently she used fine kolinsky and cat-hair brushes to paint the piece – tools which I had no idea existed. The clean arrangement of the objects and line work, the symmetry, the warm palette and the circularity made the piece extremely pleasing to the eye.

Acorns from Brunei, 1997
Watercolour on paper, 20x13cm

What further concreted my choice was her fervid interest in South East Asia, which is where I am from. Ishikawa was born in Tokyo in 1950. She originally studied graphic design and worked as an illustrator before transitioning to botanical art in 1989. She considers her third theme of work, “Tropical Rainforest Plants of Borneo” her “life’s work” (ASBA, n.d.). She visited Borneo in 1994, and has now visited Borneo a total of 12 times to research and take more sketches of the rainforest. She is fascinated by the energy and biodiversity of rainforests, calling them like the acorns she painted, “the planet’s last jewels of biodiversity” (ASBA, n.d.). Since a child, she has been particularly interested in the biggest (and most pungent) flower in the world, the Rafflesia keithii. I remember learning of this plant as a child, and have always wanted to see it but even she beat me to it.

Rafflesia keithii, 2013Watercolour on paper, 57.7x75.5cm

Ishikawa makes such lovely paintings through her meticulous nature and her care for the plants delicacy. She uses large pieces of paper and fine brushes to capture the immense size while still capturing details. She also is better able to paint the subjects of her work by studying them. Since going to Borneo, she continues to study botany, gaining a deeper understanding of the structures and anatomies of what she paints.

Amorphophallus titanium, 2012
Watercolour on paper, 2x1.1m

Dried pitcher of Nepenthes villosa, 2012
Watercolour on paper, 40x34cm

Clarke, Victoria, and Rosie Pickles. Plant: Exploring the Botanical World. Phaidon Press, 2016.

American Society of Botanical Artists. “Mieko Ishikawa's Story Behind the Art.” Asba-Art.org, www.asba-art.org/article/www-stories-mieko-ishikawa.

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