Over It gives me great pleasure that The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, has been given this opportunity to present a retrospective of the works of the internationally renowned artist Aiko Miyawaki. The successful opening of the show pleases me especially because Ms. Miyawaki was struck by a sudden illness last year, necessitating a long period of convalescence, and for a time we were unsure whether it would indeed be possible to hold an exhibition. Fortunately, however, as a result of the rehabilitation she has undergone with her will of iron, she has recovered even to the point of producing new ink drawings for the exhibition. Moreover, she recently visited the Museum in a wheelchair for a photography session, and I was delighted to see her energetically directing the installation of her work UTSUROHI.
Needless to say, this series of unexpected occurrences has indeed filled me with deep emotion.
It was actually quite some time ago that we first decided to organize this exhibition. After the initial decision was made, Ms. Miyawaki, who gives careful and considerate thought to everything she is involved in, studied the project from various angles and incorporated ways to make her show even richer in content. At first, however, she seemed slightly hesitant about the idea of a retrospective. Her reaction may have been only natural, for considering how she had been frequently going overseas and we had received reports from her each time on the results of her new work abroad, it was certain that an exhibition featuring her recent and new works, even by themselves, would have been extremely appealing.
Nevertheless, we wanted as many people as possible (especially young people aspiring to become artists) to learn about Ms. Miyawaki’s long-continuing creative activity, as well as see her memories and experiences crystallized in the now valuable records she has accumulated as a result of her encounters with various artists of the world through mainly the contemporary art“scene.” Let me say that we indeed had good reasons for ultimately deciding in favor of a retrospective.
In late 1989, a large work of Ms. Miyawaki’s seriesUTSUROHI was installed near the just completed Grande Arche at Défense in Paris. The following autumn of 1990, the public corporation in charge of development of the Defense district held a solo exhibition of her works to commemorate that completion.
The exhibition site had a ceiling that was low compared to its spacious floor space (although that had probably been taken into consideration), and in addition to her newest UTSUROHI, there were drawings and maquettes, as well as a table of about 20 meters in length with a mass of various documents, that is, catalogues and pamphlets showing her past exhibitions and artistic activities, as well as photographs telling of her varied and very human encounters with many interesting people.
Ms. Miyawaki’s honest reaction to this show seems to have been one of reluctance and embarrassment, but this unique exhibit caught the interest of a large number of people. A portion of the photographic documents exhibited at that time, accompanied by her autobiographical recollections, were later published as Aiko Miyawaki Documents: A Pictorial Biography (Bijutsu Shuppansha, 1992).
Then, two years ago in the autumn of 1996, a group of paintings from Ms. Miyawaki’s early period whose whereabouts had been unknown for thirty-five years were found by chance. This series of works, in which everything superfluous has been eliminated from the picture, was first presented to the public in the exhibition “Aiko Miyawaki 195964” at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art (OctoberDecember 1996). At the time, Akira Asada wrote in an essay for the catalogue that they “capture the viewer’s eyes with a freshness not even a bit eroded by the passage of time.” Indeed, it was as he wrote, and I thought the works had something that was suggestive of her laterUTSUROHI series. I felt also that these pictures, giving rise as they did to various ideas, possessed hidden the temperate restraint and infinitely lucid intelligence of this artist, who once told me that even a single line contains all she has lived until then, in its entirety.
In an essay entitled “Their Group,” Ms. Miyawaki wrote as follows: “I do not know when they began or when they will end. / These half-melted things that only barely retain their former shapes. Without my being aware of it, their procession begins moving, little by little” (Hajime mo naku owari mo nai aru chokokuka no kiseki [No beginning, no end following the path of a sculptor], Iwanami Shoten, 1991). Indeed it was works with these endless rows of drops of cloudy liquid that had been rediscovered.
Around the time she produced these works, Ms. Miyawaki was living in cities like Milan, Paris, and New York. Having placed herself in contemporary European and American art circles, she was greatly influenced by them in her lifestyle and work, but I think I can safely say that she was unique in her way of concentrating all the various experiences she had within those milieus. This she was able to do because she had quietly cultivated a “ground” for assimilating forward-looking and richly experimental artistic ideas. Her art developed from her brass and glass works of the late 1960s and 1970s to the UTSUROHI series of the 1980s, in which she visualized space within light and movement. And it is this UTSUROHI series that has been erected in various places around the world and has come to be identified with her. Put another way, it can be described as the aesthetic world Ms. Miyawaki has nurtured and developed over the years. While the works in the UTSUROHI series may appear somewhat frail, they in fact have a sturdy structure that is undoubtedly supported by the artist’s skilled technique and experience.
I believe that the world Aiko Miyawaki’s art has developed, carving a consistent path from her early period to today, and firmly established in UTSUROHI will be discussed long into the future as a refreshing exception occupying one nook in the history of twentieth-century sculpture. Here after all was the emergence of a type of airy and transparent aesthetic world that could not possibly have been imagined from traditional views of sculpture.
At any rate, our good fortune of being able to include rediscovered paintings from her early period heightened our expectations for this retrospective. Even so, Ms. Miyawaki proceeded with preparations for the exhibition not just as a re-encounter with the past (in fact, she herself may have intended a fervent separation from the past) but as a new “starting point to creation” for herself, with a refreshing spirit so typical of her.
But then, as I mentioned above, she fell ill, and there was concern for a while that the exhibition may have to be canceled. Nevertheless, it has somehow been successfully brought to realization something which, in my view, is first and foremost thanks to Ms. Miyawaki’s firm conviction.
This experience has made me feel intensely that Ms. Miyawaki is an artist who, no matter what the situation, has the courage to return to the point of origin of her art. I therefore look forward eagerly to her new drawings in watercolor. In addition, I was deeply impressed by the conscientiousness and suppleness of her sensibility as she gave careful thought to every aspect of the exhibition (an impression, however, that is accompanied by my wishes for her to take care not to overwork herself).
In any case, I hope that this exhibition will provide the opportunity for as many people as possible to follow the course of Aiko Miyawaki’s art over forty years and be impressed by the clear view she gives us over the horizon of her creative activities.
Finally, I wish to express deep gratitude to the museums, galleries, and collectors who have allowed us to borrow their valuable works for this exhibition and to the other parties involved for their generous cooperation.
My appreciation goes also to Ms. Aiko Miyawaki herself, who graciously acceded to every one of the bothersome requests we of The Modern Museum of Art, Kamakura, made of her even from the planning stages, and to Mr. Arata Isozaki, who often gave us time out of his extremely busy schedule for consultation purposes. In addition, let me take this opportunity to thank Mr. Morio Kita and Mr. Kunio Tsuji for contributing their essays, Mr. Michio Hayashi and Ms. Kate Linker, their brilliant studies, to this catalogue.
This essay is reproduced from no beginning, no end Aiko Miyawaki 19581998 [published by the Museum of Modern Art Kamakura& Hayama, 1998]
Copyright (c): The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama