One day, Roy Lichtenstein unexpectedly received a package sent by another artist. His surprise was soon overtaken by laughter. In his thank you letter to this artist, he wrote, “I opened the box just to find another box laying inside. It was such a surprise.” The letter was addressed to Kimiyo Mishima, the artist who sent him the box-shaped ceramic work that looked so real and puzzled Lichtenstein.
At the age of 86, Mishima continues to create new artworks. She even has solo exhibitions in galleries in Kyoto and Tokyo from time to time. Before the 1970s, Mishima mainly focused on painting and making collage using scraps of promotional flyers, newspapers, and magazines to demonstrate a unique touch of her personality. Despite the growing recognition, Mishima felt something was lacking in her works. “In the 1960s, everyone was obsessed with information. Everyday life was flooded with information from newspapers and magazines. My works were to a certain extent a response to the situation of the time. I was very tight on money, but it didn’t stop me from being overwhelmed by information of shopping mall sales and discounts printed on promotional flyers, newspapers, and magazines. I was anxious and fearful of the situation,” Mishima once shared her thought in an interview.
Her attempt to channel her anxiety through making collage was not satisfactory despite her continuous effort. At that point, the neatly bundled up newspaper that was ready to be discarded caught her attention. The Japanese have a habit of gathering old newspaper at home until the pile gets big enough. Then they would tie them up and throw them away on the recycling day. This common sight suddenly meant a lot to Mishima. People are sometimes reluctant to touch ceramics because of their delicate appearance. However, when putting them together, or making the volume more substantial, ceramic works can exude an unspeakable power. Therefore, she realized ceramic was the medium she had always been looking for.
The bundled up newspaper and comics, the ragged carton, a paper box filled with newspaper, the crumpled newspaper… these items all seem to have a long story to tell. The shabby carton could have been long abandoned somewhere. It must have got washed by the rain, blown by the wind, and naturally dried up before being moved into the art gallery. Mishima’s trompe l’oeil can be described as deceitfully real, many would even treat her newspaper print works as actual trash if they were randomly found in a corner of the room. This is not at all exaggerated, in fact, a janitor once accidentally damaged her work when it was being exhibited in a gallery as he mistook it as rubbish. Instead of feeling angry, she found it funny, “I enjoy making artworks that confuse people.”
In Tokyo Ota area, there is an art space called ART FACTORY JONANJIMA that features a permanent exhibition of Kimiyo Mishima’s works including a massive installation art made of firebricks. Mishima uses kilns built of firebricks to fire her ceramics. After tens of years making ceramic art, she accumulated tons of used bricks. Instead of throwing them away, she decided to turn them into an artwork. For preparation, she went to the library to collect newspaper spanning from 1900 to 2000 and printed them on the firebricks. She jokingly said the most confused person was her daughter who asked, “Why are you making this when we are running out of cash?”
從事創作六十多年，對三島喜美代來說來，這幾年來自己的作品才被真正被看到。2014年Art Factory城南島開幕，展出了她以陶製報紙造成的迷宮，金沢21世紀美術館的館長秋元雄史、華盛頓的Arthur M.Sackler Gallery的策展人特意來參觀，並深被感動；在紐約辦展，Guggenheim Museum及MOMA美術館的策展人對之讚不住口；對她來說都是難能可貴的肯定。她說很慶幸在她正打算把自己大堆作品處理掉時，終於熬出頭來，有地方願意接收。
Mishima has been engaged in the creative industry for more than 60 years. It was only until recent years that her works began to gain popularity. Back in 2014, ART FACTORY JONANJIMA, in their grand opening exhibition, showcased a maze Mishima made using ceramic newspaper. Even Yūji Akimoto (director of 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa) and the curator of Arthur M.Sackler Gallery in Washington came to visit and were very impressed. It was also received with high acclaim by the curators of Guggenheim Museum and MoMA. It was a precious recognition to her, especially at the moment when she was on the edge of discarding a great number of her previous artworks. On top of the recognition she got, Mishima was glad to have a venue demonstrating the result of her efforts over the years.
The appreciation made her absolutely delighted, more importantly, those are the arts that she created purely based on her inner calling without having any intention to flatter the public or any art critics. “Art is like drugs that are difficult to refrain from indulging. It’s giving my family a hard time!” said Mishima.
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