⟨ Art ⟩

Mayumi Watanabe

Send in the Clowns

Words / Phaedrus Lam
Photography / Kimio Ng
Translation / Iris Heung

日前由agnès b.主辦,日本藝術家渡部真由美的個人展覽「Send in the Clowns」,正式於尖沙嘴K11的 Librairie Galerie內開幕,其策展人是在香港為人熟悉的演員林嘉欣。

在前年2016年8月,林嘉欣才在同個展館內,策劃過日本書法大師井上有一的展覽,而這次與品牌二度合作,她卻不再安份於單純的策展角色,除親力親為地佈置場地、張羅物資,甚至還動用上其人脈找來舞蹈家Abby Chan、廣告導演Maisy Choi等人協同創作,與渡部真由美的作品相互映襯,帶來一場結合平面、立體、影像與舞蹈的藝術饗宴。

開幕前一天,我們與渡部真由美、林嘉欣相約在Librairie Galerie細聊這次展覽的籌辦經過。場內,白色的帷幕罩著不到三百平方米的展館,卻顯得渡部小姐作畫裡,那些或鮮豔或強烈的色彩更形突出,散發出一陣異色的氛圍。

agnès b. Librairie Galerie at K11 Art Mall is currently hosting a solo exhibition of the Japanese artist Mayumi Watanabe titled Send in the Clowns. The exhibition was curated by a well-known figure in Hong Kong — the actress Karena Lam.

Two years ago in August 2016, at the very same venue, Karena curated an exhibition for the Japanese calligraphy master Inoue Yuichi. Collaborating with the venue for the second time, Karena is no longer content with simply curating, she also helped with decorating the venue, sourcing material, as well as using her own connection to invite talented artists to participate in the project, including the dancer Abby Chan and TVC director Maisy Choi. The artists interact with Watanabe’s works to create an extravagant artistic collaboration across 2-dimensional, 3-dimensional, moving images and dance performance.

The day before the exhibition opening, we had the privilege to meet with Watanabe and Karena at GALERIE BOUTIQUE to learn more about their preparation process. In this exhibition room of less than 300 square meters, its walls are all covered up by white curtains, which, in fact, has magnified the vivid color in Watanabe’s paintings. Against this white backdrop, the paintings exude a sense of quirkiness.

在大阪府出生的渡部真由美,自2007年起活躍於日本國內外的藝術祭,創作媒介有插畫、油畫,立體雕塑並齊,還曾於2012年出版《Onomatohair》一書。

沒接受過正規藝術訓練,渡部小姐自設計學院畢業後,藝術創作全憑個人的模索與努力。她說道小時候父母常不在家,便逕自在家畫畫和做手工創作,畢業後她全心投入創作,幸而得到藝術界前輩的賞識,漸漸在國內受到重視;而也許是這種長年獨自創作、無師自通的經歷,形成她那種看似莫名簡單,想像力卻天馬行空的筆觸。她說:「我不想把事情講得太清晰和實在,我偏好是只給一個提示,之後就任由大家自由詮釋,作品都會保持簡約、去掉多餘的修飾部分,就是想牽任大家去自由想像。」

在渡部小姐過往的作品中,你都很容易感受到畫面中純真、童趣的特質,可假如你全心投入作品去感知時,卻又會注意到那份隱藏的晦澀風格。像這次渡部小姐以知名音樂劇《A little night music》中,經典曲目〈Send in the Clowns〉為靈感而展開創作的同名系列,其以芳華背後的孤獨和殘酷為主軸,正正把這份潛藏中的晦澀表露無遺。

「這我也同意。這次作品中有著相當陰暗的部分。大家之所以有這份感覺,主因可能是畫中人物的臉部都沒有表情,色彩也偏簡約但暗淡,但所謂沒有表情,就像剛才說的東西想盡量保持簡單,不想加入太刻意的表情讓大家看見,而讓大家從無表情中去感受,會找到一點不一樣的東西。」渡部小姐說道。

「就像大家常常提到的『In the eye of the people』,每個人看一個作品的時候,都會有自行演繹的方法。」作為策展人的林嘉欣,她回憶起當初看見渡部小姐作品時的感受,說:「看著她的畫,腦海裡不期然地響起腳步聲。」說著時雙手還忙不佚地敲打手上的文件夾,模仿著她腦海中浮現的踅音。

Mayumi Watanabe was born in Osaka prefecture. She has been active in both local and international art festivals ever since 2007. Her wide range of works includes illustration, painting and sculpture; the artist also had her book Onomatohair published in 2012.

Watanabe has never received any proper training in fine art. After graduating from a design school, she has been devoted to exploring her path in art. She said, her parents were usually not around when she was a child, therefore she spent a lot of her time on drawing and making handicraft at home. Upon graduation, she completely devoted herself to art; she was lucky to receive high recognition from the more established artists, and soon gained international recognition. Perhaps it was her experience of creating art alone without anyone teaching that makes her works simple and yet full of imagination. Watanabe said, “I don’t want to make things too straightforward or rigid. I wish to create simply a hint for everyone to interpret on their own. I create my works in a minimalistic way without much refinement, so that the viewers can be given more room for imagination.”

The sense of child-like purity can be easily seen in Watanabe’s work, but a closer look would reveal a hidden obscurity. Take her Send in the Clowns as an example, the series was inspired and named after the song from the famous musical A Little Night Music. The musical was themed around the loneliness and cruelty hidden under the superficial glamour; such an idea is a perfect representation of the sense of obscurity.

“I agree. This is a rather dark series of work. Viewers feel it this way mainly because of the lack of facial expression on the portraits, the color tone was simple but with a dull touch. The reason for why I didn’t give them much expression was exactly like what I just said, I would like to keep it simple. Instead of giving the characters a vivid facial expression, I would rather let the viewers feel different things from the expressionless faces,” explained Watanabe.

“The saying ‘in the eye of the people’ implies everyone would have their own interpretation on the same piece of work.” said Karena, the curator, when recollecting her first encounter with Watanabe’s works, “Looking at her work, the sound of footsteps just lingered in my head.” She even tapped on the folder she was holding to imitate the phantom sound she heard.

要理解渡部小姐的創作,「自然」或許是另一個關鍵字。

「我本身很喜歡大自然,感受其中每個細緻的東西,像掉落在路邊的小石頭、風吹樹葉窸窸窣窣的聲音、大海波浪的形態,所有大自然的東西我都會由心去感受。」渡部小姐說。

「那天我沒有陪她出去,她自己還獨個兒搭船到了南丫島的海灘。」林嘉欣笑著說道。在渡部小姐來港的短短幾天,林嘉欣就帶她搭過天星小輪、到過蓮香樓飲茶,還走到深水埗看地攤和老鋪,漸漸建立出信任和默契。然而她幫渡部小姐安排的還有更多,可不止是個地陪、導遊。

衍生自「Send in the Clowns」的藝術創作,林嘉欣找來了舞蹈家Abby Chan,合力譜出一支舞蹈,並由廣告導演Maisy Choi拍攝成影像。氣氛緊湊的編曲,節奏如像機械運轉般密集,還有那規律化而稍帶沈重的肢體動作;看著看著時,甚至令人有點喘不過氣。

「我本身很喜歡看舞蹈。我覺得舞蹈是把那種濃縮的情感披露人前,非常赤裸地表現出愛恨。那時候看到渡部真由美的《monologue》,第一次看到後就立即愛上了。那時就在想,能不能用影像形式跟作品互動呢?最後就找來了Abby Chan和Maisy Choi,給她們看過畫作後,便開始著手編舞和設計影像。」

林嘉欣還笑著說,好多這些想法都沒有跟渡部小姐報備,往往完成後再知會她,幸而她最後都通通同意、欣然接受。我問旁邊的渡部小姐,看見別人根據自己的作品延伸創作的感受時,她幽幽地說:「我覺得這種形式,可以讓更多不同領域的人接觸到作品本身,讓更多人知道,而且這種形式更超越我原本對題材的理解和想像,這是令我最開心的事情。」。

話說回來,從前年策劃井上有一的展覽,到這次為渡部真由美策展,之前還曾出版散文集,我於是問林嘉欣是否有打算完全投入到純藝術的領域?又如何看待這些形形式式的新機會?

「到了這階段人生還可以做夢我很感恩。可這不是我人生主力的事情,我始終是一個演員,藝術是我的所愛。而無論是文字、攝影,這些對我來說都是養份、我喜歡的事情,所以不會說這樣就要成為一個策展人,我不會這樣定義自己,藝術是我生活一部份,就像是吃飯一樣日常、貼切的東西。」

“Natural” is perhaps another core concept for understanding Watanabe’s work.

“I like the nature a lot. I enjoy experiencing every of its details — a pebble by the road, the sound of leaves when being blown by the wind, the pattern of wave — I tend to feel everything in nature from the bottom of my heart,” said Watanabe.

“She took a boat to a beach on Lamma Island the other day without my company,” Karena said jokingly. During the first few days of Watanabe’s arrival, Karena brought her for a ride on the star ferry. They had dim sum in the traditional Lin Heung Tea House, visited the small local shops and historical shops. The two gradually developed a mutual trust and understanding. However, sightseeing was only one of the many things that Karena has arranged for Watanabe.

Based on the artistic concept of Send in the Clowns, Karena invited the contemporary dancer Abby Chan to choreograph a dance; the piece was then shot into a video by the TVC director Maisy Choi. The intense piece of background music with an industrial beat was paired with repetitive and somewhat agonizing movements. The whole video is so strong that makes the audience hold their breath.

“I personally enjoy watching dance performance very much. To me, dancing is to demonstrate a concentrated form of emotion, it is to candidly express love and hatred. I fell in love at the first sight when seeing Mayumi Watanabe’s monologue. Back then, I was already exploring the possibility to let video art interact with her work. Therefore I met with Abby Chan and Maisy Choi to show them her paintings. We then started to work on the choreography and the video itself.”

Karena lightheartedly said, many of the ideas were not communicated with Watanabe until they got materialized. It was very lucky that she was happy to approve all the ideas. I asked Watanabe, who was sitting next to me, what does she think about having extended works based on her own works. She replied in a low voice, saying, “I think this form can perhaps allow my work to reach a greater audience. The form has gone beyond my initial understanding and imagination on the topic, I am truly glad about it.”

Karena curated Mayumi Watanabe’s exhibition two years after curating the Inoue Yuichi exhibition; in between, she also published an essay collection. I asked Karena if she had a plan to devote herself to the field of fine art, and how she treated all these new opportunities.

“I am thankful for the chances to dream at this stage of my life. This is, however, not my major focus; I am an actress after all. Art is where my passion lies. Language, photography and other forms of art are nutrients to me. These are the things that I am fond of. Therefore I would not define myself as a curator. Art is part of my life, it is a daily necessity like my everyday diet.”

臨近訪問尾聲,我最後問渡部小姐在藝術創作生涯上,有沒有那些題材和想法,是她一直銳意耕耘和經營的?

「一直以來都不會太刻意令人認識自己。我認為每個人在想法、喜好、感受上都不一樣,我只是在不同時候有些想法,就接著去執行,拿出成品跟大家分享。而且也不是端出來,跟大家講『這是我做的東西』,而是讓每個人自己感受。」她語氣懇切地回道:「無論是正面或負面的意見,只要能給大家一個思考的空間就可以了。」

Towards the end of the interview, I asked if Watanabe had any particular theme or idea that she endeavored to express throughout her career as an artist.

“I am never keen on making myself known. Everyone has their own way of thinking, their preference and their sensation. What makes me different is that I would turn my thoughts into some kinds of work to share with others. I never boldly present my work as if telling people ‘hey, this is something I created’. I prefer to leave it for everyone to feel themselves,” replying in a sincere voice, Watanabe said, “be it positive or negative comments, all I want is to simply create a space for people to think.”

agnes b. GALERIE BOUTIQUE
Date: From now until April 8, 2018
Location: Shop 119, K11 Mall, 18 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon