Mayflies and Stars

Kyoko Imazu’s new exhibition covers deeply poetic territory.

7 May, 2021
In Exhibitions,
Printmaking, Q&A

From top:

Kyoko Imazu

Shadow portrait, 2018, etching and aquatint, edition 20, 49.5cm x 44cm

Beetle puppet, 2021, solar plate photogravure edition 20, 17.5cm x 14.5cm

Murnong Yam Daisy, 2020, papercut, 800x620mm

Earthly delight, 2020, papercut, 430x505mm

Battle of the food chain, 2020, papercut, 690x660mm

A wanderer, 2021, papercut 490mm x 610mm

Represented by Australian Galleries, Melbourne and Sydney and Beaver Galleries, Canberra 

Q: What were some of the foundation ideas that led to the work in this exhibition project?

A: The starting point of the ideas for this exhibition was a poem I was born by Hiroshi Yoshino (1926-2014) and the life of mayflies that’s ephemeral yet powerful.

The poem tells, from a point of view of a child, of a child’s father explaining adult mayflies, their physical characteristics and their brief life as an adult, in comparison to his mother who sacrificed her life so that the child may have his.

I used papers and papercut to bring the sense of seemingly delicate yet intense lives of mayflies and their maddeningly short life cycle. The shadows that the papers create play with the idea of the tangible and intangible, obscuring details yet revealing its essence simultaneously, like a mirage – which coincidentally translates to mayflies, ‘Kagerō’ in Japanese.

Q: What are some of the key works and how were they developed?

A: The framed papercut works and shadow puppet installation are the key works in the exhibition. They were all developed last year during lockdown at home when I couldn’t access my studio but was able to pay closer attention to my own backyard and neighbourhood. Works were developed with a lot of advice and help from friends and colleagues. For example, theatre director and puppeteer Sarah Kriegler and Jacob Williams gave me lot of advice on technical aspects of lights and shadows during our 1 or 2 hour dog walk, a furniture designer Steve Edwards created shadow puppet stands and a sound designer Seb Robertson helped me with the soundscape.

Q: How does the exhibition manifest – what do visitors experience?

A: Visitors to the exhibition will be able to peer into each of the works to discover the hidden worlds of tiny fantastical creatures. The shadow puppet installation created specifically as part of the exhibition casts the shadow of dancing mayflies and beetles as well as curious bystanders along the gallery walls. My imagery draws on animals, people and imagined beings to tell whimsical stories of exploration and adventure, bringing to life my memories and personal connections to the worlds these tiny creatures inhabit. Inspired by my early memories of the yōkai creatures from Japanese folklore, I imagine a parallel world of mystical animals, and creatures that we cannot see with our own eyes.

Q: What is it about the printmaking experience that you most appreciate?

A: In this exhibition, I have included two intaglio prints to add a different way of interpreting the concept of the exhibition. I most appreciate the way the technique and medium talks to the concept and helps form the imagery. This exhibition especially made me aware of that aspect of printmaking in contrast to papercut and installation works.

Mayflies and Stars is at ArtSpace at Realm until 27 June https://www.maroondah.vic.gov.au/Explore/Whats-on-in-Maroondah/Events-calendar/Mayflies-and-Stars-by-Kyoko-Imazu

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