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In Praise of Light September 2009 – Oliver Marsden


We arrive Koumi early April, bright skies disperse flurries of snow and cloud. We relax into the Horiuchi studio, thankful of warm floors and thick duvets.

The first few weeks are quiet. No phone no car no internet. We explore the surrounding area on foot, with the odd lift into Koumi town for food and to check hardware stores.

It's a quick walk between the studio and Koumi museum. I wander through the galleries, enjoy the exhibition, but concentrate on the light and feel of the space.

I begin by making scale drawings of stretcher frames available, sketch plans and ideas, check paint colour charts and make digital models of the museum space.

I generally paint on square and circle canvasses, I like their simplicity. Rectangles are more suggestive. But I feel like a change, a different puzzle.

I study books on Japanese Masters. I can read few names, or titles only gaze at the many pictures of ink drawings, screens, sculptures and temples.

I find a picture of a Mandala of Both Realms, the Diamond World and the Matrix World from the Heian Period (9th c.). I check proportions (1.1883116) and lose myself in the pictures.

The Mandalas have a beautifully complex geometrical structure supporting their many elements/Buddhas. Circles within squares within rectangles within squares. Reminds me of infinite dimensionality and everything being part of everything and all the same.

We source more equipment, brushes, pumps, motors, and carpenters build walls.

Air compressor set up, I hinge a small canvas to the wall, it hovers face down at 90 degrees. I spray turpentine to erode a constellation of points through a wet layer of Blue Black oil paint. I edit back looking for a balance until only one point is left. Blow I 2009

Hunami comes the weather is warm and fresh. We picnic with friends under cherry blossom as children play baseball.

I spray a 3' square orange fade and a couple of 5' square blue fades. Inspired by the beautiful weekend and Hokusai’s skies.

Kyoto –Museums - Toji – Temple – Miho Museum – Gandharan Buddha - Nara –Museums - Gardens – Naoshima – Chichu Art museum - Monet Turrell deMaria Tado Ando - Osaka – Hiroshi Sugimoto.

We return to the house I dream of pilgrimage, sacred sites, and journeys.

Friday, ten days before we return to the UK, we have guests for dinner, they leave and I start painting grey harmonics. I paint every available canvas.

Tiny flies dot the wet oil paint. We spend days building netted drying areas, tweezering out the dead bodies and re spinning the canvasses. Turpentine fumes fill the house and studio. My throat and lungs tighten, I can’t get away, I feel sick and retch.

Harmonics drying, I move onto the ohms. The canvasses are 3.8 metres corner to corner, heavy and spin fast. I airbrush thin mixes of white, building and sculpting the form. Waver, or splatter and the piece can be easily lost.

Round canvasses are wet sanded, water and splashes of gesso cover the floor. Sheets of sand paper lean draining and drying.

I pour litres of acrylic onto the rounds, then tip and spin the paint around the skirted edge. Bug nets are placed to protect the drying pools, we clean up and leave for the UK.

We arrive back in Koumi. Eiji Eumatsu’s show of ceramic forms is opening at the museum. He deals with the space in a way I would never have imagined. Beautiful work, amazing show. I can’t sleep and need to check the paintings in the studio.

The large harmonics have dried well, are very cool, almost too subtle. The Ohms are lacking tension and need re-spinning. The pools have lost all vibrance.

I destroy and re-stretch one of the smaller round pools and then spin brushed layers of thick dark acrylic over the others. I re-spray the large Ohms, almost lose one as it spins off true. It has to be a triptych.

Two large orange fades, and a warm yellow liquemorph painting, change the colour to soft turquoise. Stop slow down. Mix and test new colours and decide upon an ultra violet blue mix.

It has been raining for weeks, we are in the clouds, paint isn’t drying. I try to evolve new works by pouring, eroding, spinning and spraying. Some beautiful things happen during the painting, but I’ don’t manage to capture them.

I research sound frequencies, generate sine wave sound-scapes and re paint the harmonics with turquoise sea greens, bright blues and soft deep violets.

I’ve mixed a deep translucent blue green oil paint that moves when blown, holds form, stays open for 8 hours and is touch dry in 48. I paint the Endogens, happy in their evolution.

I begin a harmonic waveform on the last linen stretcher and finish spraying and glazing the liquemorphs. My head is spinning. Time is up.

Friends come to visit, we pack away the studio and leave for Kyoto.

Much rested we return and move the paintings to the museum. All goes smoothly. I work out placing, and finish painting the ohm trinity and waveform. The works are hung in one long day, leaving three days for lighting and adjustments.

We raise the Ohms, Pulse and Dub paintings. But the Dub is still too low. We rehang in the morning. Relieved I walk back to the house too tired to be nervous for the opening that afternoon.