MORIMURA Ray (b. 1948) - woodblock
Morimura Ray always dresses head to toe in in black. “I use a lot of color in my prints” he says, “but I was Inspired to wear all black by Coco Chanel, Rei Kawakubo and Sonia Rykiel; I just find them so very chic. I started to wear only black when I turned 40 “.
The artist is a huge fan of author Ray Bradbury. In fact, it is in homage to him that he writes his name “Ray” as opposed to the more traditional transliteration “Rei”. Morimura started using this as a nom de plume when he was moonlighting as a graphic designer while working full time.
Morimura attended college with the plan to become a high school teacher and graduated from Gakugei University where oil painting was the focus of his studies. Subsequently he painted geometric abstract works but gave that up and became an illustrator of children’s books, and a graphic designer on the side. He mentions that “Sarah Thompson, from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, pointed out that my prints, while art, also show my strengths as a graphic designer.”
After discovering the woodblocks of Hatsuyama Shigeru (1897-1973) and Kawakami Sumio (1895-1972), he was inspired to take up woodblock technique. By his late twenties he was exhibiting his prints—landscapes for the most part—in a series of one-man shows.
He states that he is not a purist and describes his work as multi-colored relief prints in which he uses plywood, linoleum, or whatever new material he finds, including flooring material. His paper of choice is kozo, uncoated mulberry bark paper, that works well with the oil- based inks he prefers.
His traditional use of these materials suits his motifs—an exploration of classical gardens, historic temples, and shrines. At a time when many artists are exploring new techniques and delving into abstraction, Morimura seems to be going back in time, rendering in his distinctive muted palette a personal expression of treasured Japanese vistas.
Morimura says ”My purpose is not to copy a landscape. I don’t even make sketches. There are times when I may photograph a building, but only those that leave a strong impression are incorporated, through a time-consuming process, into my prints. The completed print is often quite different from the original landscape because the memory of what I actually saw and the images and patterns of what I remember blend together. Inspiration comes from strange places: one of my prints was created because McDonald’s used a shrine on a promotional poster, and I decided I needed to see it in person.”
He adds: ”I feel that people should take more time to observe their surroundings in an appropriate manner. Some things look better from the top of a bus, others make more sense if you see them as you walk slowly by...I am very lucky to be able to live my life freely and I strongly believe that personal integrity is key to a good life.
His wish as an artist is that people who view his work make a connection and feel the same sort of spiritual depth that one feels when one looks at a Rothko.