Mika Horie is interested in alternative printing processes and making her own paper. Horie is one of 16 artists included in PHOTOFAIRS PRESENTS: Cyanotype, our first digital exhibition. We caught up with the Japanese artist to discover more about her intriguing practice. Xiaohui Tang reports.
There is a dream-like quality to your work: sometimes the imagery on paper looks obvious, sometimes it looks more ambiguous and abstract. What are you trying to express through your cyanotype series?
I am trying to express my first reactions to nature and surroundings. My work is about the beauty of the pure coincidental moment of the image, texture of paper, and the condition of sunlight that I use for cyanotype printmaking.
If we look at the works closely, we see plants, tools, landscapes and so forth. What drew you to such subjects? Could you describe the process of creating these cyanotype prints?
At the beginning of my career in a mountainous village, I was impressed by the sights, the shapes of old farmer's tools around my studio. I naturally started photographing what I see every day to record what I wonder in nature and ideal devices.
In terms of artistic style, there is a sense that you are having a conversation with yourself through these works. Is this a particularly Japanese style? What are your thoughts on Japanese photography and how has it influenced your practice?
It’s difficult to answer if my creation is Japanese in style. I could describe that the texture of the all-handmade papers makes imperfection of each print. The imperfection is one of the aesthetics of Japanese beauty, “Wabi-Sabi.”
In my thoughts, Japanese photography is poetic, a way of vague communication among people expresses subtle scenery changes from season to season. Yes, since I have studied photography at university, I have been fascinated by poetic works and landscape photographs of seasonal changes in Japan.
What is the relationship between your life and art?
It is the best pairing. To me, life is one sheet of blank paper, and my art is the essential way of drawing lines and adding colours.
In your cyanotype works, the paper is not only a carrier but also part of the art. Can you speak more about the paper you choose for your work and your attraction and attachment to paper? Is washi an integral part of Japanese culture?
Yes, it is. Washi is one of the most indispensable tools to preserve Japanese ancient traditions such as literature, poems, and tea ceremonies.
A sheet of Washi paper is made of many thin layers. It makes a beautiful depth of gradations. I fell in love with the effect when I did my first experiment of cyanotype print on my handmade Washi.
Can you speak briefly about the characteristics of the paper you use and how it is made? The texture looks amazing!
I’m delighted to hear that. All papers are handmade by me using just one material and almost no machine, Gampi tree fivers. I begin with harvesting wildly grown trees in the mountain every early spring season. Strip and dry the bark, then strip the white bark. Boil it, then beat it to make paper pulp. Mix with spring water. Scoop the fiver and water with screens—dry papers by natural wind and sunlight.
What do you think of the relationship between paper and cyanotype?
Cyanotype is one of the crucial alternative processes to make limitless possibilities of blue tones. The paper textures and colors create a wide variety of results of printing.
You pay great attention to craftsmanship and creating something by hand. To a certain extent, this way of working makes photography irreplaceable. What are your thoughts on this as well as the role material plays in art?
The material is 100% local and made of natural materials, which can return to the soil making it 100% biodegradable. Since I was around nine years-old, I have had a strong inquiring mind to think about the sustainability and preservation of the natural environment. I believe that art with natural materials is one of the environmentally friendly ways and to feel human is a part of nature.
Today, screens are replacing paper as the dominating carrier of text and image. The production, dissemination, education, and collection of art are also becoming more reliant on virtual spaces. What are your thoughts on this? How are you dealing with this “trend?”
Screens with high-quality images or movies are incredible innovations in the art world. I enjoy technological development however, I feel it’s hard to get the emotion of “warmth” through digital media. It’s a difficult question. I’ve been thinking about how I can deal with the online world during the corona crisis. I haven’t got any reasonable way.
So what’s next? Have you got any more cyanotype projects in the works?
I’m currently working on many experiments to make more delicate paper textures and am trying out new sizes of landscape prints. I’m also making a new series called “painted photograms” by using natural mineral pigments on cyanotype prints.
I’m going to make new cyanotype prints of landscapes and everyday objects as much as I can. It will be a difficult rest of the year for direct communications for us. I firmly believe that everybody could feel some essence of the beauty of handmade paper and old process that have survived from ancient times.