Tomoko Ishida: 1998
Lillian Elliott Award Recipient


Recent Work - 2018

MUSUNDE-HIRAITE (Close Your Hands, Open Your Hands), 2018
Discarded wrappers from offerings to Buddha.

Tomoko Ishida - MUSUNDE-HIRAITE (Close Your Hands, Open Your Hands)
Tomoko Ishida - MUSUNDE-HIRAITE (Close Your Hands, Open Your Hands), 2018.

"When I touch, hold, release, hold again, and watch the paper in front of me, with just this simple movement, my fingers, palm, back of the hands, and arm will move in quite complicated ways. I can feel some energy going out and coming into myself smoothly. And it reminds me of a nursery song "Musunde-Hiraite". Though musubu (to tie up) and hiraku (to untie) mean the opposite, in Japan, we can accept both as "ryoukou (dual-standard)" from Zen's way of thinking. In the song of "Musunde-Hiraite", the word, tie, clap, and open are repeated. And these actions remind us Japanese of the praying way of Shinto and Buddhism. People clap their hands at Shinto shrine, yearning for God tieing up in the chaos to save us, and worship at temple with folded hands for becoming released from sufferings."

"This original melody was composed by famous French theorist Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and it prevailed among many European countries and the United States. In Japan, first it was sung as a hymn, then a marching song, and at last it became the song for little children after World War II, with the new title "Musunde-Hiraite" (although nobody knows who wrote the lyrics). I can imagine that somebody eagerly desired the recovery of Japanese lands and minds, looking blankly at burnt-out ruins. Because the songwriter knew people could be encouraged by traditional gestures and thinking ways."

"My work of this time came from Japanese children's elementary dance. Please enjoy them with your old warm memories of the first dancing on earth."

Tomoko Ishida - MUSUNDE-HIRAITE (Close Your Hands, Open Your Hands)
Tomoko Ishida - MUSUNDE-HIRAITE (Close Your Hands, Open Your Hands).

Daijobu Sisters, 2018
20cm x 20cm x 2cm :68 pieces
Used paper.

Tomoko Ishida - Daijobu Sisters
Tomoko Ishida - Daijobu Sisters, 2018.

Tomoko Ishida - Daijobu Sisters (detail)
Detail - Daijobu Sisters

This work is collaborated with many people. After the Great East Japan earthquake, I held a workshop of making sashes for yukata dress together with the displaced ladies from Katsulao-village. It was aimed at reviving the traditional Bon-dance of their village. About twenty ladies assembled and they were mostly aged. However, we could decide each partial responsibility quite smoothly, and we were getting along with our work. Could you believe that we made 154 pieces of sashes in one day and a half?! At that time, I felt actually the lady's power for which had not been appreciated at all among the local communities. So I wanted to make some work for the memory of our lady's power. I named this work "Daijobu Sisters". "Daibobu" means "don't worry" and "big job" at the same time. Please enjoy our powerful job.


Recent Work - 2016

Says Tomoko, "After the earthquake disaster (11 March 2011), I could make only two works which seems like praying for reconstruction from the disaster. This summer, I was asked to do a workshop for the opening ceremony for the new institution, the JAEA (Japan Atomic Energy Agency), in my town. Here is an image of this work which was created in collaboration with general people in this town."

"We call spring-time 'Haru' in Japanese, which originally means to occupy the empty room to be full and more. On this work, a crowd of people's hands and minds gathered to make it full and more. That could be 'Haru' of Miharu town so to speak. Souls of the people in this town gathered here and created it for the reconstruction after the big disaster."

110 X 200 X 4 cm
Used paper.

Tomoko Ishida and Miharu community members, TAMAKIHARUINOTI, 2016.



Recent Work - 2010

Pure Wind Comes Out, 2010
9910 cm x 9820 cm
Discarded wrappers from offerings to Buddha.

Tomoko Ishida - Pure Wind Comes Out
Tomoko Ishida, Pure Wind Comes Out, 2010.

Tomoko Ishida - Pure Wind Comes Out
Pure Wind Comes Out.

Tomoko Ishida - Pure Wind Comes Out
Pure Wind Comes Out.

Discarded wrappers from offerings to Buddha.

Tomoko Ishida - Untitled
Tomoko Ishida, Untitled.

Tomoko Ishida - Untitled
Tomoko Ishida.

I began making art from paper in 1992, that is, after my marriage. I married a Buddhist priest, and came to live in a Zen temple in the countryside of north-eastern Japan.

The year after our marriage just happened to be the fiftieth year after World War II, so there were many memorial ceremonies for fallen soldiers around that time. As a result, I spent many days without working on my art, nor thinking, nor even going far out of the temple, but just taking care of customers and guests, cleaning and cooking for the temple.

Living this way, I experienced for the first time a feeling of "connection" to the many things and people who came and went in my life each day. In particular, newspapers, letters, and various wrapping papers were passing in front of me all day long, without interruption, each and every day. I used to make artwork from cloth, so it might be that I am fond of such fibers to begin with, but among all that paper, I picked up the papers used to wrap offerings to Buddha. Because those papers were durable material and beautiful color.

And I began to consider how to make art works out of those wrapping papers. But I wondered how I could work without any concentrated free time or even a workshop space, living as I was in the temple. I realized that it would have to be something simple and repetitive. In the end, I decided that I would make "koyori" pieces in the spare moments I could carve out of each day. With no particular plan in mind, I just worked at it, day by day, like keeping a diary. It only takes about 20 seconds to roll one paper for "koyori", and they don't take up much space, so I could see that this method and material suited my living conditions quite well.

As I worked with the paper that I gathered from many different sources, I began to imagine the reactions of the people that would come into contact with the paper after it left my hands as a work of art. Nowadays, I can even hear the paper say, "We are the embodiment of your time, your spirit , and even your encounters."

"We are the embodiment of your discontent, your prayers and your dreams. We are the embodiment of you." In this way, I feel that my koyori work represents not just me, but the commonality of all mankind — the human community.

For most people, it is not necessary to make art in order to live. However, for me, it is the only way to make sure that I am living. So, it is my hope that you will not just "view" the exhibition, but rather that my works will appeal to your senses and that it might resonate with you on a deeper level.

January, 2005


Work Submitted for the 1998 Lillian Elliott Award

Co-Twisted, 1998
300 cm x 500 cm x 300 cm
Discarded wrappers from offerings to Buddha.

Tomoko Ishida - Co-Twisted
Tomoko Ishida, Co-Twisted, 1998.

Tomoko Ishida - Co-Twisted (detail)
Detail - Co-Twisted.