Ōtepoti Dunedin-based artist, Motoko Watanabe makes soft sculpture, working with salvaged and second-hand materials that are recycled and reconfigured as fabrics and textiles for her arts practice, her work possessing an authoritative presence in its occupation and command of the gallery spaces and environments that it occupies as both an aesthetic and physical experience.
Watanabe’s soft sculptures have their origins in her study of traditional Japanese painting at Joshibi University of Fine Art, Tokyo in 1989, and her completion of a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1993 at Kanazawa City University of Fine Art and Craft in Kanazawa. Previous projects in Aotearoa include the Dunedin Art Gallery’s Rear Window Project in 2017, and her soft fabric installation, A nest in town. Reviewed in The Critic by Monique Hodgkinson, she commented: ‘Themes of safety and nesting are key to Watanabe’s work. In A nest in town she has gathered local materials and compiled them in much the same way as nests are foraged for and constructed in nature. The organic matter seems to both offer a central location of safety and warmth and perhaps suggest the existence of a nesting creature, buried beneath layers of white cotton.’
Her self-titled exhibition/installation at the Ashburton Art Gallery positions its attention on the principle of the artist as an agent of transformation, the discarded renewed and reborn as an art work and object of value to be appreciated and treasured. For Watanabe this encompasses a commitment to a reconsideration of the potential of plastic, paper, packages, bottles and general domestic waste. That is, the ordinary items of everyday life as representative of the significance of the small detail of our daily life as an experience to be valued. Undeniably, Motoko’s practice aligned its principles and actions with the artist as alchemist and the Ashburton Art Gallery extends an invitation to all to take the chance to examine Motoko’s art and reflect on the everyday treasures in all our lives.
Ashburton Art Gallery, 327 West Street
5 February – 6 March
- Motoko Watanabe, installation photograph