“A sense of serenity…”
Paul Zimmerman in conversation with Nobuko Saji
Paul Zimmerman: Congratulations on your current exhibition at Artifact. Tell us about paintings included in this show?
Nobuko Saji: My paintings represent the relationship between our nature and the universe. I feel a deep connection with the circle which is dominant in my artwork. These circles are a symbol of peace, hope, and unity in our human relationship. The sun, moon, stars, and planets that I paint on the canvas are no different than each of us on this small planet we call Earth. Sometimes I feel the universe’s energy and its light which pours on to humanity. This guides me in my creative visions.
PZ: What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
NS: Materializing the image onto canvas and creating the rough texture while evoking movement is the most challenging part of my artwork. Representing the contrast of the mysteries of the universe yet preserving the serenity is what I hope to convey.
PZ: What is your artistic process? How do you create your paintings?
NS: I have a rough image in my mind and as I begin to sketch out my thoughts, I let the energy guide me.
PZ: Do you have any particular goal in mind when you start a new piece?
NS: My hope is that when people see my artwork it brings them energy, peace and humanity.
PZ: How do you know when the painting is finished?
NS: It is complete when there is harmony between my mental sketch and it gives me a sense of serenity. And it evokes a moment in time when you can stop to appreciate the wonderment of the universe and the power of what nature has created.
PZ: Has your practice changed over time?
NS: I have always focused on creating artworks that evoke a sense of tranquility, looking at the unknown that nature created. However, the events of the last several years have spurred a transition from the norm. I gravitate toward painting calming images but lately, I have included fiery reds and bright yellows in order to reconcile with a world that feels unstable. During the pandemic, I have begun to work in small sculptures. The freedom I feel with expressing the universe in a different form has ignited me.
PZ: Which artists are you most influenced by?
NS: While I am struck by the artworks of Van Gogh, his tumultuous life and perseverance never kept him astray from his passion for art. We all have those dark and light moments in life. I visited Saint-Remy, the town where Van Gogh spent his latter years, and I could see the inspiration for his final artworks. I could see that he found the light and peace during this time which inspired me.
PZ: How would you define art?
NS: Art is an expression of the artist. It is an extension of my soul, my child which I endured months to create. It is my voice of hopes and dreams.
PZ: What are you working on now?
NS: I continue to paint on canvas but my universe series is evolving toward 3D and small sculptures.
PZ: How does the pandemic influence your work and sensibility?
NS: During the quarantine, I prayed daily for my daughter and the healthcare workers who went into the unknown to save those afflicted by the coronavirus. My fears, hopelessness and prayers poured into my sculpture. It was meditative and kept me hopeful that we would survive this pandemic.