Watching Mayumi’s work unfold over the last few years has been a great privilege. Always an artist with a flair for the intricate and a feel for subtle nuance, she has really pushed the boat out with the collage work completed during the years 2016-2018.
These collages are intense, yet also have a quirky, playful element. The surfaces are a study in the sumptuous; showcasing a breadth of intriguing mark-making and a variety of textures; while at the same time Mayumi’s sensitivity to the possibilities of negative space allows all the elements of a piece to speak, however quietly.
Mayumi succeeds in somehow encapsulating the meaning of her works very subtly through media used and through the titles she gives them. For example, “Play for Strings” perhaps has the somber reflective tones of a Bach Partita for Solo Violin, and the depiction of curved lines through stitching brings to mind the arc of a bow or even loosely the shape of a violin. “Dreaming of Daisy,” -while quite abstract- somehow evokes the feeling of a cloudless summer afternoon spent sitting in the grass contemplating the acidic yellow colour of the centre of a fresh daisy…There is a freshness and innocence here, yet also a gutsy materiality which recalls the abstract paintings of Robert Ryman or surfaces of Dubuffet, all the while always ‘keeping the thread’ of the incomparable refinement of Mayumi’s Japanese heritage.
Some of the works appear to draw on literature and history, using collaged text as a backdrop, such as “A Path to Pompeii” which is a memory of the artist’s own trip to that place. The red used here is the same red to be found in Pompeii and the square and linear aspects seem to depict architectural elements such as tiled floors and the fragmentation, mosaics.
What is singular about this work is its un-obviousness, which is so welcome in today’s harsh world of instant gratification. Hints and whispers of atmospheres or meaningful memories are conveyed with great skill through the vehicles of collage, collagraph, drawings and stitching. And if you ‘listen’ quietly to these works, they may just remind you of something in yourself you had overlooked- something quiet, unassuming and true.
(Sophie Saunders is an abstract painter and painting tutor at The Learning Connexion, Wellington.)