Living matter is a specific kind of rock ... an ancient and, at the same time, an eternally young rock.

Vladimir Vernadsky

My artistic practice is about environmental melancholia and an urgent and persistent form of reconciliation between humanity, industrialization, and nature. In her book “Environmental Melancholia” Renee Lertzman argues for a theory of environmental melancholia that accounts for “the ways in which people experience profound loss and disruption caused by environmental issues and yet may have trouble expressing or making sense of such experience.” I grew up in Osaka, known as the “smoke capital”. On warm sunny days, photochemical smog alerts kept children indoors. The nearby river where my father swam as a boy was now black. By the 1980s, I was conscious of this environmental melancholia identified by Lertzman. The current and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic presents a strong reminder of the uncertainty of life and interconnectedness of all things in the universe.

I have been a fossil and mineral collector from the outset. Initially, my focus was not on the creation of paintings or sculptures, but to build a kunstkammer (cabinet of curiosities). I incorporate or emphasize these fragments and natural phenomena in my work. We are part of nature and this intrinsic connection is the core of my artistic process. My intention is to add elements to my work that evoke the geological time scale, where personal experience transforms into the universal, to experience ourselves inside a sense of deep complexifying time.

DE RERUM NATURA: on the nature of things

My ongoing body of work takes its overarching title from De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), the book by Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius (ca. 99-55 BCE). "Nothing can ever be created out of nothing, even by divine power. [...] Visible objects therefore do not perish utterly, since nature repairs one thing from another and allows nothing to be born without the aid of another’s death." A waterfall, a rainbow, a fallen tree, a stone, a crystal, clay—whether virtual or physical—these materials’ provenance is essential to convey to viewers that perfect crystallized moment of stillness; and the profound depth of particularity presented by the elusive power of being totally present in nature.

Traveling to remote areas has informed my work from the beginning. In nature I experience a concord essential and integral to my artistic practice. The resultant work becomes a visual record of my experience of landscape and a conduit for connection between nature and humanity. Like sedimentary rocks, my work is created with layer on layer of memory and emotion. And like metamorphic rock, each work is morphed or altered by new connections between each stratum. Unexpected associations and epiphanies emerge, creating the whole.

*"nullam rem e nilo gigni divinitus umquam. [...] haud igitur penitus pereunt quaecumque videntur, quando alit ex alio reficit natura nec ullam rem gigni patitur nisi morte adiuta aliena." (Titus Lucretius Carus, De Rerum Natura, I, 150, 262-264.)

Cicninnati, OH, 2015


SLEEPING TREE | 2005 | henna, milk, tree resin, graphite, masking tape on paper | 48 x 183 cm | private collection



The Global Tree Project began when I encountered a large uprooted oak in a forest. It lay as if sleeping on a gently sloping grass-covered hill. When I returned a few days later, the tree had disappeared. In place of its roots remained a scar, a mound of raw earth. I envisioned a new tree growing on this mound.

Like Inanna-Ishtar, goddess of Sumerian myth, I wanted to pluck this uprooted tree and bring it to my sacred garden. I wanted the tree to lie and sleep, envisioning a new world like the dream of the world that emerges from the Indian god Vishnu’s navel in the form of a lotus flower.

As historian of religion Mircea Eliade wrote, if the plant and we come from the same uterus, we are twins. We didn’t die from the separation, as do some conjoined twins, but, somehow we need to be together. In my Global Tree Project, I try to heal our wound from this separation, and reopen our connection with nature to be whole, and to have a new vision through it.

Washington, DC, 2009

Das Global Tree Project begann damit, dass ich im Wald auf eine grosse entwurzelte Eiche stiess. Sie lag da, als schliefe sie auf einem sanft ansteigenden grasbedeckten Hügel. Als ich ein paar Tage später wieder dorthin kam, war der Baum verschwunden. Anstelle seiner Wurzeln war eine Wunde geblieben, ein Haufen blosser Erde. Ich malte mir aus, ein neuer Baum wüchse aus diesem Erdhügel empor.

Wie Inanna-Ishtar, die Göttin sumerischer Mythen, wollte ich den entwurzelten Baum auflesen und ihn in meinen geweihten Garten bringen. Ich wollte, dass der Baum dort läge und schliefe, und stellte mir dabei eine neue Welt vor – so wie jener Traum von der Welt, der dem Nabel des indischen Gottes Vishnu in Form einer Lotusblüte entspringt.

Wie schon der Religionshistoriker Mircea Eliade schrieb: Wenn die Pflanze und wir demselben Uterus entstammen, sind wir Zwillinge. Wir sind durch die Trennung nicht gestorben, wie es bei siamesischen Zwillingen passieren kann, aber irgendwie gehören wir zusammen. In meinem Global Tree Project versuche ich, die Wunde, die diese Trennung hinterlassen hat, zu heilen und unsereVerbindung mit der Natur zu erneuern, damit wir unsere Ganzheit zurückerlangen und ein neues Sehen lernen.

Übersetzung: Elvira Lackmann, Berlin