My Memories about Colour

Article  /  Making   Artists
Published: 04.01.2008
My Memories about Colour.
Mari Ishikawa
Edited by:
Lucca Preziosa
Edited at:

Mari Ishikawa’s works illustrate deep roots in japanese tradition and rituals, revealing at once a transformation and metamorphosis of their content in a contemporary jewellery aesthetic.
From lecture by Mari Ishikawa during the meeting / conference with the artists of the exhibition Timetales: Lucca Preziosa 2007.

I was born in Kyoto, Japan. This used to be the capital city of Japan, where you can still find a lot of traditional culture mixed in with today's life. It is a beautiful city with a lot of nature, which is rare for big Japanese cities. 
(Photo 1) 

As Kyoto is surrounded by mountains, the sun rises from the mountains and then returns to the mountains. The sunshine colours the mountains and sky into red, and then day breaks. The Japanese word “Aka“, which means “red”, originates from “Akeru” , which means “day breaks”. Red means the colour of the rising sun. The country's name “Japan” also means the country of the rising sun. The goddess of the Japanese traditional religion Shinto is a sun goddess, who is called “Amaterasu-omikami“. 

In the Shinto shrine, everywhere from the entrance gate to the smallest details of the building, are painted in red. There was a shrine near my parent's home and its yard used to be my favourite playing spot in my childhood. There was another world behind the red gate. The red colour on the building stood out from the green vegetation, which is a typically gentle colour in Japan. The contrast of these colours leaves a strong impression on me even now. 
(Photo 2) 

Everybody imagines different colours depending on the environment where they grew up or their memories. For me, the colour red means the colour of the rising sun, namely vivid red with a little yellow.
There is a Japanese proverb:
-- Two people with a close relationship are connected by a red thread on their little fingers --
I think jewellery also connects people's relationships. Based on this idea, I started to work in 1999 with red Japanese Washi papers. The titles of my works are “En”, which means relationships, and “Musubi”, which means connections. Since 2004, my works have used vegetable dying stuff called “Urushi” from the Japanese lacquer tree.
(Photo 3) 

I think red is a very unique colour among Japanese traditional colours. Japan does not have vivid colours in nature compared to the tropical countries. It might be because of the Japanese humid climate. Primary colours are not used so much traditionally in Japan because vegetable dying stuff is mainly used. However, when red is used, its tone is very strong and vivid.
I have an unforgettable memory about the colour red. When I was a child, my mother used to prohibit picking flowers or catching insects.
- They have a life so you should not play with them like toys. -
This is what my mother used to say. One day It happened that I found a strange flower, which was a very strong red and had a mysterious shape. It was not similar to any other flowers I had ever seen. It was so beautiful to me. I wanted to know that flower's name, so I broke my mother's order and I picked it and brought it home. She said with a troubled face,
- This flower is called “Higanbana” (Lycoris) and also Dead People's flower -
Soon after I have heard it, that flower looked venomous to me and scared me.
Then I threw that flower away. It was the first time for me to know that flowers have a meaning. 
(Photo 4) 

Red is symbolic of the colour of sun, fire or a holy Shinto shrine, and at same time it is also the colour of an evil poisonous spirit. It is a powerful colour which gives different impressions depending on the situation. The profundity of the red colour attracts me.

I would like to introduce one other story regarding the colour. 

We have an expression which says, “48 browns, 100 greys”. There are so many different sorts of browns and greys, and those colours used to be considered as the most stylish colours. Grey especially was considered as an elegant colour and often used for Kimonos.
I am also one who is attracted by the colour tone of grey, which is found in the shadows. I have made some works based on the shadow as a theme. It is the combination of the photos applying so-called photogram techniques and jewellery. These are works of false images and real images.
(Photo 5)

I often take pictures as well since before. Those pictures are usually black and white. I keep taking these because I am attracted by the diversity of black and white pictures. I used to take a picture of clouds. What interests me is light and shadow which are created by insubstantial clouds.

The existence of clouds, which is at same time a false and a real image, is also interesting for me. I made some jewellery based on this too.
(Photos 6,7)

Now, I am also interested in the tone of the plants. The green colour of plants is mysterious. This is because you cannot dye anything green using plants, even though they are green. You can dye something to green briefly, but then the colour vanishes like an illusion and turns into a sort of brown colour. The green colour cannot be stabilised. Green is a colour of an illusion and shows its colour only when there is life. When various green colours are taken as black and white pictures, you can see very profound, various greys in it. 
(Photo 8) 

The shape of plants attract me as well. I am more interested in the shape of flowers or weeds in a field rather than foliage plants. Their various shapes and perfection surprises me. For whom and for what is it so beautiful?
Plants do not talk. They are just there. I feel that their existence tells more than a thousand words sometimes.
Now I am working with a plant theme, called “In the Shade of the Tree”. Furthermore I am concerned with plants and their profundity attract me more and more.
(Photos 9, 10)

Today's lecture was my first experience for me. I really appreciate all of you who gave me this opportunity.


Born in Kyoto in 1964, Mari Ishikawa studied art and then worked as an art teacher and designer before deciding on further training as a goldsmith at the prestigious Hiko Mizuno College in Tokyo. From 1994 until 2000 she continued her studies at the Munich Art Academy as a pupil of Professor Otto Künzli’s; in 1999 she was master student. 

Her works centre on the idea of ties, fo relationships – a form of networking things which is basic to the Japanese view of nature and religious world-view. Mari Ishikawa’s interpretation is, therefore, distilled into her art in a specific form of linkage, for example, of paper (kozo) and silver, in the construction of cloud-like configurations and interwoven structures, enmeshed in poetically delicate, complex visions inspired by the rhythm of the seasons. Photography is her point of departure, serving her artistic research in observation and sensitising her to the proecessual passages in nature. Mari Ishikawa’s works illustrate deep roots in japanese tradition and rituals, revealing at once a transformation and metamorphosis of their content in a contemporary jewellery aesthetic. 

Mari Ishikawa is an outstanding exponent of international avant-garde jewellery design. Her work is owned by the most important collections and museums in this field.

more about the artist at:
(Photo 1).
(Photo 1)

© By the author. Read Copyright.
(Photo 2).
(Photo 2)

© By the author. Read Copyright.
(Photo 3).
(Photo 3)

© By the author. Read Copyright.
(Photo 4).
(Photo 4)

© By the author. Read Copyright.
(Photo 5).
(Photo 5)

© By the author. Read Copyright.
(Photo 6).
(Photo 6)

© By the author. Read Copyright.
(Photo 7).
(Photo 7)

© By the author. Read Copyright.
(Photo 8).
(Photo 8)

© By the author. Read Copyright.
(Photo 9).
(Photo 9)

© By the author. Read Copyright.
(Photo 10).
(Photo 10)

© By the author. Read Copyright.