“In Japan, the ideas of ‘hare’ and ‘ke’, the extraordinary and the mundane, were deeply embedded. Life was lived in a rhythm of separating the special and the ordinary. The folding screen, which is not ‘always’ there, is manifest in the fleeting moment of the extraordinary. We are in a reality of irreplaceable sensations and experience. For me, a screen is something which exists both in the moment and in the infinite.”
A great contemporary artist must satisfy several criteria: Acknowledgment of tradition, cultural and artistic, yet transcending it; mastery of technique and creative use thereof; articulated philosophy; and the ‘x’ factor, the artist’s unique spiritual expression which inspires the inexpressible ‘wow’ that announces the presence of greatness.
Maio Motoko, contemporary screen artist, satisfies these criteria. Maio remains true to the traditional function of the folding screen in manipulating physical space. Her reinterpretation – double hinges, differentially sized folds and reverse sided decoration – enables a flexibility of form and transformation of physical space that both embraces and transcends the intention of the traditional screen.
Mastery of technique is obvious. She brings to the canvas of the folding screen mundane materials – aluminium foil, crushed stone, sand, dirt, iron rust- that provide a freedom of colour and texture unimaginable in traditional work. Maio’s artistic concept embodies the contradictions and harmonies of Yin and Yang and their manifestation in human experience. She is unafraid to explore the negative, the dark, the decay and transience of life, juxtaposing it with the positive, light and fecund. With a powerful, visceral and seductive aesthetic appeal is a concurrent psychic impact reflecting the universality of human experience.
As sculptural objects her works stand in a variety of formations, giving no hint to alternative manifestations. The unique thirteen fold screen compacts to a mysterious trapezoid standing alone as a sculptural object, totally concealing its potential as a massive canvas. As functional art, Maio’s works give unprecedented flexibility to the transformation of space and to the creative instincts of the end user: “These screens, a crystallization of my own experiences, in the hands of the ‘other’ transform into something entirely new”.
Maio’s unique contribution lies in the interplay of form and concept – Yin and Yang counterpoints allow the manipulation of emotional and psychic space, as the material form allows the manipulation of physical space. Maio Motoko has recreated the traditional Japanese folding screen giving it new life in a contemporary international context. She has moved beyond boundaries of time, space, form and culture. She will undoubtedly be recognized as one of the great artists of the 21st century.