The University Art Gallery is currently displaying Grand Rapids artist Tatsuki Hakoyama’s “Searching for the Middle Path.”
The exhibit opened Oct. 16 and runs through Nov. 10. A lecture and reception with the artist was held on Thursday, Oct. 26.
The exhibition and lecture was made possible in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The exhibit is about fusing together the positive aspects of all cultures. It seeks to find the balance between tradition and modern societal advances.
Hakoyama’s work is meant to show at what point things start to hurt the values of tradition.
In Japan, a Torji is a traditional gate that separates the sacred spaces from the profane spaces.
In today’s society, some of the gates have the names of sponsors who paid for them etched on the back of them.
Tisch M. Lewis, the University Art Gallery coordinator, is part of the committee that chooses the artists who appear in exhibitions. She was not involved in this particular exhibition, however, since she did not work at the university when the exhibition was chosen. The decisions are made about two years in advance.
Lewis loves the sculptural aspects to Hakoyama’s work. It features oil paintings on different panels that have to be assembled.
She said she loves getting to set up the exhibits, learning from the visiting artists and applying aspects of their technique to her own work.
“I get to pick the brain of the artist, whether they are there or not, when I get a complicated piece to put together with no instructions,” Lewis said.
While there are many complicated pieces in the exhibit, Hakoyama’s favorite piece is “Envisioning the Dragon.”
“Primarily, I really like how I juxtaposed the nuclear power plant with Mount Fuji and all the symbols, and how it ended up getting tied together,” Hakoyama said.
The piece has Koinoboris as its foremost image, which are wind socks of Koi fish that are flown to celebrate Children’s Day as a symbol of health and protection.
This is juxtaposed with the nuclear power plant and Mount Fuji to show the destructive aspects of the natural world and technological advancements. It also shows that, despite this, tradition still stands.
Many students came to the exhibition, including Julianna Kussy, a senior at John Glenn High School and an aspiring artist herself. Kussy came with a few friends from her art class.
They wanted to learn about a current working artist.
“I just like learning about other people’s artwork and learning the meaning behind it,” Kussy said. “It inspires me to have a message and to try to say something with my artwork more.”
Hakoyama is currently working on a new series called “Darkness and Light.” The continual cycle of work exemplifies his advice to aspiring artists.
“Always be making work,” Hakoyama said. “It is so easy to get out of the habit of making your work. I think it is important to know that it is not art degrees or the education that makes us artists. It is when we make work. That makes us artists.”