Mizue Sawano's Eternal Return

By Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

Eternal Return brings together fifteen oil paintings by
internationally acclaimed artist
Mizue Sawano, including selected works
from her cherry
orchard series, the display of which will help commemorate the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift of cherry
trees to Washington D.C. in 2012.

Hugging with Green by Mizue SawanoEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

In Sawano's work, the cherry tree and its short-lived blossoms go beyond their customary role as poignant symbols of life’s ephemeral nature that figures so prominently in traditional Japanese poetry and painting.

Eternity by Mizue SawanoEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

Her treatment of the subject tends to invert its traditional valence, as exemplified by the monumental "Eternity," which represents instead the prodigious “tree from the age of the gods” (jindaizakura), a two-thousand-year-old cherry tree.

This primordial tree’s ability to bring forth its blossoms year after year suggests not transience so much as the hope- fulness of cyclical regeneration and nature’s enduring power.

That perseverance is manifest in the powerful trunk of the tree, the focal point of the painting. Red, orange, pink, ochre, green, blue, and black pigments suggest the variegated texture of ancient bark, but the intensity of the unblended strokes of color introduce notes of dissonance and abstraction.

Path of the Cherry Blossom by Mizue SawanoEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

As in her other cherry blossom paintings, pale lines across the canvas (created through the artist’s “tape-line” method) draw attention to the work’s own facture while creating a multivalent pattern evocative the kaleidoscopic fragmentation of refracted light.

Hidden Love by Mizue SawanoEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

Kitanomaru National Garden by Mizue SawanoEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

Sawano applies the most sophisticated and classical artistic training of Japan’s Tokyo National University of Fine Arts to a plein air process and subjects of outsize scale and intense chroma to generate works of visceral appeal unified by notions of ceaseless and cyclical return.

Rain by Mizue SawanoEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

Universe by Mizue SawanoEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

Although the inspiration for Sawano’s cherry orchard series and water lily and lotus paintings originally came from within a US metropolis—the grounds of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden—her canvases open onto larger worlds and universal themes.

Town of Peace by Mizue SawanoEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

Nothing more so than the series of paintings depicting the landscapes and street scenes of Assilah, Morocco, where Sawano has continued to visit since her first invitation there in 1998.

Alley-Way by Mizue SawanoEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

The intensity of sunlight in the North African setting, at sunrise and sunset, and as it strikes the white walls of the city, is captured in several of the works shown here, while the motif of the sun was one she used as a unifying symbol for Japan and Morocco in large-scale murals executed in Assilah between 2000-2003.

Rippled Reflection by Mizue SawanoEdwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

About the Artist: Mizue Sawano

Mizue Sawano was born in Moriguchi, Osaka Prefecture, Japan, and subsequently moved to Oiso, Kanagawa Prefecture, and later on to Tokyo. She completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music before continuing her education at the Institute of Contemporary Art (Gendai Bijutsu Kenkyujo), Tokyo, and L'Ecole National Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris. Sawano moved to and has been based in New York since 1969, and she has traveled to many places in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Russia, Mexico, Canada, and the United States. More information about her work can be found on her website at www.mizuesawano.com.

Credits: Story

Mizue Sawano

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