The show is up!
The suzuri, or the inking stone as it is known in English is the work that draws the most attention. It is made of paper – kozo fibre covering a structure sculpted from styrofoam. The surface of the paper has a thin covering of beeswax to protect it from the sumi (ink) that fills the bowl. One of the things I had not foreseen while planning this work is the strong odour of the sumi (ink) and everyone in Japan has some memory of that odour deep inside them from calligraphy practice at school. I love that intensity. It also draws attention because of its blackness and reflecting surface. I dropped the letters of the poem onto its ink surface as a small performance piece at the opening and since then, most of the letters have been slowly turning black with absorbed ink. Everyday as I arrive at the gallery, I think that perhaps the sumi will have started to seep out of the bowl and run down the side of the plinth and onto the floor. And indeed, with much trepidation, I filled the bowl with ink.
When I first started to install the work, I explained to Ozawa-san, the owner-director, “you do understand, this is paper and this is ink, danger! ” I said in my limited Japanese, “is this ok?””It is ok for you?” he asked, “yes,” I said, “if it is ok for you.” “Segoi” was his response, “Great!”
So far, everyday I arrive and all that changes is the ink – it is slowly evaporating and the dust is collecting on the surface and the letters get darker, but, their undersides are also protected with beeswax and will not completely submerge. There is also a slight penetration of ink on the side of the bowl – making viewers realize that it is not porcelaine or stone – a bruise on the paper surface – perfect.
Here is video footage of placing the letters on the ink’s surface during the opening of the exhibition.Paper Words, placing letters on ink