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about Matta Sen

:: Matta {means again in Japanese} Sen ::

This exhibition was a continuation of my exploration of the number 1000 as it pertains in particular to Japanese culture.

The Japanese are masters of the number 1000 [Sen]. It is a number that cozies a number of traditions. The dedication it takes to get to 1000 of anything is no joke – symbolically if you can reach that goal you are rewarded with luck or a wish. In this exhibition I furhter explore this idea of Sen. Repetition – in mark making and in subject matter as well as investigation often in a scientific manner - are utilized in my practice regularly. For this exhibition my goal was to explore 1000/Sen and the notion of luck by combining facts and data as well as historical and cultural practices with my own lexicon of visual vocabulary. All the work in the show literally contained an aspect of 1000.

There were installational pieces as well as other smaller works. The works in the show thematically revolved around:

Senninbari – these are 1000 stitch belts that women would make for their husbands going off to war in WWII. Ideally 1000 women would gather and each one would put a French knot in a belt. They would work on many belts – collectively infusing each one with the luck the hoped would keep their loved ones safe. The belts protect the stomach/gut which is of significance to the Japanese. The belly or hara is where a person’s power and vitality resides – this is in part why it was an honor for samurai to commit Hara-kiri instead of dying in shame – it was an act of controlling one’s own vitality. The senninbari were meant to be talismans to protect the wearer.

I used French Knots in these works to link back to the Senninbari. It is a small and dainty, yet strong stitch.

One of the installations in the show was a series of large – 4”x4” ­–– French Knots. There were 1000 of them suspended on a wall – 20 rows of 50. Made from 3/4” diameter rope and hand dyed in small batches to create an ombre to Japanese red, I strove to create a powerful almost domineering version of the Senninbari. I have continually been interested in scale shifts and love the idea of such a small and insignificant knot wielding much more power and presence. The red obviously refers to the Japanese flag [as does the shape of the knot itself]. The labor involved in this piece is also of interest significance. The rope was ordered from a company in China [2200 feet], delivered in giant spools, cut down, dyed, cut into 2 foot sections, and finally tied and then secured for hanging.

The other installational piece was a re-visitation of a piece I made in the Spring of 2016 using 1000 buddha hands – a loose reference to Senju Kannon – the 1000 armed Buddha.  http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/kannon.shtml#senju  The hands are cut out of different golden papers and placed on 6 panels of mulberry paper. Mulberry is the traditional paper for Shoji Screens – and the top angled cuts of the paper are a reference to that. The paper feels a lot like cloth and so I let it hang and roll onto the floor – harkening to how a kimono flows onto the floor. The hands are loosely put into traditional Japanese cloud patterns – many golden screens have this sort of patterning on them.

In Spring 2016 I was awarded a residency at Kala Art Institute where I used my time to learn to create letterpress prints. In the exhibition were a series of chromatic [red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, gray, pink] 1000 Buddha hand prints – again a nod to Senju Kannon, the hands are in the mudras of blessing/protection and teaching. Placed in concentric circles the hands begin to form a larger circle [another nod to the Japanese flag]. In the very center were a series of French knots with threads that dangle down.

There were also prints of origami cranes - Senbazuru – 1000 cranes. Much of the world is familiar with the story of Sadako Saski and her quest to make 1000 cranes after the bombing of Hiroshima. The tradition of making 1000 cranes for birthdays, anniversaries and other occasions stems even further back into history. One set was also Chromatic – with two prints that have 500 cranes each – in expanding concentric circles, and strung together so that thread ties the bottoms together.

Another set of 3 garland based prints – were also created, they were gray and hand colored in a chromatic order with thread accents.

Finally a set of 3 hand colored prints with thread had a series of 1000 tori gates in them. They were reminiscent of Fushimi Inari - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fushimi_Inari-taisha the temple outside of Kyoto that has thousands of Tori gates that visitors can walk through.

In a new twist I had 3 panels of fabric printed with a series of Buddha hands in the teaching mudras. There’s a red themed with 1000 french knots in a triangle shape, a green one with 1000 knots in 3 circular patterns [in many Seninbari small circles were printed so that women knew where to place the knots – I mimicked that], and a blue one with 1000 knots in 4 hyotan gourds which are symbols of luck http://hyotanhitachi.web.fc2.com/10previous/2006hyotan/2006mar/hyotan/hyotan.htm

There were also a couple of hyotan {lucky gourd} original drawings on display.