Living National Treasure Fujinuma Noboru’s exhibition at TAI Modern in Santa Fe showcases his commitment to preserving the beauty of Japan’s bamboo and culture, August 18–September 30, 2023.
Living National Treasure Fujinuma Noboru
artist reception: August 18, 5-7 pm MDT
artist lecture: August 19, 2 pm MDT
August 18–September 30, 2023
TAI Modern, Santa Fe
TAI Modern is proud to present a new exhibition of works by Living National Treasure Fujinuma Noboru, beginning with an artist’s reception on August 18, 2023, 5-7 pm, and continuing with his lecture on bamboo artistry on August 19 at 2 pm.
Living National Treasure is a designation given by the Japanese government to select individuals recognized as preservers of important intangible cultural properties including those who have attained high mastery of a particular art. It was no surprise to anyone familiar with Fujinuma and his accomplishments when he was named a Living National Treasure of Bamboo Art in 2012.
More than fifty years ago, though, Fujinuma’s path pointed in a very different direction. At age twenty-seven, he was a young man with a successful and stable career at Nikon. A trip to Europe with friends led him to ask himself what it meant to be Japanese. This led to an immersion in the study of Japanese culture and traditions and to an encounter with the book, The Collected Works of Shono Shounsai. It was then that Fujinuma realized that his path would take him to the study of bamboo basketry. He said in an interview with TAI Modern director, Margo Thoma, “From the moment I saw such work, I knew what I would do with my life. I was overwhelmed by the feeling that as long I lived, I would devote myself to continuing this legacy of bamboo art.”
Through a career that has spanned forty-eight years, Fujinuma has devoted his time and efforts to expressing and sharing his vision, energy, and the beauty of Japan’s bamboo and culture. His elegant, exquisite baskets are a testament to thousands of hours spent choosing, cutting, dyeing, and weaving bamboo.
The majority of the works in this exhibition belong to Fujinuma’s series of lacquered bamboo cylinders, which have become a love letter to the organic form of the bamboo itself. Every December, the artist goes to the bamboo grove to select culms of bamboo that speak to him. After being cut, these culms are taken to his studio where they dry for two to three years. When the pieces are ready, Fujinuma carves them to the shape that will best complement the natural form of the bamboo. It’s only then that he will begin the process of applying layers of urushi lacquer.
Urushi—the traditional Japanese lacquer that comes from the sap of the Urushi tree—is applied in upwards of 100 layers of various colors. When they are dry, Fujinuma sands them, selectively uncovering different layers to expose a palimpsest of revealed color. The resulting sculptures synthesize both their organic form and layered color map to create a sculpture that is wholly unique in the extensive world of Japanese bamboo art.