This Side and the Other Side is an Anglo-Japanese odyssey of the artistic achievement of Nana Shiomi. It follows a 20-year journey of printmaking - paying homage to the past and her native culture, while at the same time gently forging her unique contemporary vision. It culminates in the completion, and exhibition of the epic print series, One Hundred Views of Mitate.
There is a quest for space in Nana Shiomi’s life and work, a space that is reflected in her imagery by a stage, or Garan-do. In Japan, a Garan-do is a large, empty room where monks meditate. This empty space is the beginning and centre of her universe: the stage for her ideas and icons to play out their physical presence. The repeated stage motif is most important to Shiomi’s work and first appeared 40 years ago. This singular structure is present in the entire series of One Hundred Views of Mitate and continues throughout the larger, more complex woodcuts.
Shiomi’s drawing of the stage is a perfect metaphor for the dichotomy between her Japanese-ness and the westernised vision of her work. The familiar ochre structure recedes with lines to a vanishing point, creating a three-dimensional illusion by using the western technique of perspective. Holding the eastern view of the world, the earth-red background is flattened into a single picture plane by the horizontal wood-grain, revealed from the printing blocks.
“I put my icons (often Japanese icons) onto the western drawing method because we live in the western-rationalised world. I think we Japanese are living in the western-dominated world with a Japanese mindset.” Nana Shiomi
Another of the differences in mindset between East and West is reflected in the view of the universe itself. In the West, the universe is seen in a vertical configuration, with God above human beings, animals below and plants lower still. However, from the Japanese viewpoint, everything – including the self – is equal. Humans, animals, insects, plants, minerals, the elements, wind and rain, the moon and planets sit alongside each other. In Shiomi’s One Hundred Views of Mitate these objects and icons are placed on her stage and mirrored, paired or reflected in her woodcut prints.