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In Search of the Landscape in the Depths of Human Memories and Hearts | Karen Shiozawa "Beyond the Sea of Melody" Interview

November 02, 2022
Karuizawa, Japan

Karen Shiozawa is an up-and-coming artist who has just completed her master's degree at the Tokyo Zokei University. Her art features a unique sense of perspective, an exquisite contrast between light and shadow, and vivid colors that seamlessly melt into each other. Her solo exhibition "Beyond the sea of melody" is being held at the Whitestone Karuizawa Gallery from October 22nd. After previously exhibiting her works in Ginza, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, she has created around 40 new paintings and several art installations for this exhibition.

"Beyond the sea of melody" exhibition installation view, Whitestone Karuizawa Gallery

ー Tell us about your exhibition "Beyond the sea of melody".

Shiozawa: The theme of this exhibition is "The Landscape in the Depths of Human Memories and Hearts".

Every person was once an innocent child, and our current selves are a product of the memories we have accumulated throughout our lives. But in these rapidly changing times, we tend to forget those precious collective memories.

Most of my paintings are not about a specific place, but express the sheer vastness of the universe. This is because whenever I experience something new, I realize how miniscule my existence is, and how I'm living everyday in the great flow of the world.

In this exhibition, I hope it allows viewers to remember the important things that have been buried under the constant ebb and flow of their daily lives.

Exhibition installation view, "Midnight Carriage" (2022), oil/acrylic/alkyd on resin board

ー What is the meaning behind the exhibition title "Beyond the sea of melody"?

Shiozawa: I chose the title "Beyond the sea of melody" because I wanted to evoke the power of imagination that we all inherently possess.

Perhaps it's a world that cannot be seen or heard, or the inner voices that have been drowned out by society. By turning my own experiences and memories into artworks, I’d like people to imagine and think about the importance of resonating creatively with their own environment.

Shiozawa’s solo exhibition main artwork "Beyond the sea of melody" (2022), 162.0×194.0cm, oil/acrylic/alkyd on resin board

Shiozawa: When I was a child, I once received a musical jewelry box. Even today, the soothing sound of a music box brings back nostalgic memories.

Music boxes were invented during a time when recording technology had not yet been developed. It seems to symbolize the “wishes” of those who wanted to preserve their special melodies or memories.

While listening to a music box, my mind is filled with beautiful memories, recalling my childhood days when everything around me looked fascinating.

For this reason, I often use my own memories as motifs in both my paintings and installations. It would make me happy if my workscan serve as a spark that awakens the imagination and memories of others.

Exhibition installation view

ー In addition to 38 new paintings, this exhibition includes mini-drawings and installations, letting visitors experience your world through the five senses. What made you decide to create art installations?

Shiozawa: I've always loved painting since I was a child, but after experiencing different kinds of art during my college years, I realized that the purpose for creating art was to offer an experience that appeals to the five senses. I began to see the need to broaden my horizons beyond the flat world of painting to the three dimensions of real space.

Exhibition installation view

ー What is your concept for the installations in this exhibition?

Shiozawa: When I create an installation, the most important thing for me is the sense of immersion. I arranged the installations while thinking about how the viewer can become deeply involved.

Furthermore, when I create an installation, I always take into consideration the characteristics of the exhibition space, and I try to draw up an exhibition plan that makes the most of that space.

For my graduation exhibition back in February 2022, I created an installation in an exhibition hall with a 7-meter-high atrium. For this exhibition, I rearranged that same installation to match the dimensions of the Karuizawa gallery. Compared to paintings, installations have more parts and contrivances, so the most difficult part is rearranging it every time to make sure that all the pieces interact well with each other.

Shiozawa stands in front of one of her installations. The projected images feature pictures she took while she was living in the Netherlands, and other photos that evoke her childhood memories.

A box searchlight shining with a soft glow. Some of the lamps no longer light up.

Shiozawa's installation for her 2022 graduation exhibition

ーー In this exhibition, you are also selling a picture book that features your artworks and poetry. How is it different to work on paintings, picture books, and installations?

Shiozawa: I always try to think outside the box to expand my worldview in various ways. Every medium involves a different creative process, but regardless of the type of artwork I’m creating, I make sure not to lose my own identity.

Shiozawa’s mini-drawings "Southern Cross "10 tales" - Rail of star -" (2022), pen and transparent watercolor on paper with frame

The gallery walls display Shiozawa's poetry in addition to her paintings.

ー You held a solo exhibition in Taiwan last February. What changes have you experienced since that time?

Shiozawa: After finishing my graduate studies, I found more time to work on my paintings.

For this exhibition in Karuizawa, I created the most number of paintings at the same time. It was tough, but I feel that these paintings have a stronger connection with each other than ever before. Though each one is a separate object, when I was painting them, it felt like I was traveling from painting to painting, creating one vast connected world.

Another change I've experienced is that people have come to tell me how they can clearly visualize the world beyond the four edges of my paintings. It makes me very happy to be able to share that feeling. After my solo exhibition in Taiwan, more people from around the world have started to appreciate my paintings, and this is probably because they can feel a connection between the world inside me that has now connected to the outside world.

Installation view of the "Galaxy Carnival" Shiozawa’s solo exhibition held in the Whitestone Taipei Gallery in February 2022. It featured brilliant paintings that depict Taiwan's lantern festival.

ーWhat are your plans for the future?

Shiozawa: My creative process is strongly related to the experiences I’ve encountered daily. Until now, I have created artworks based on my childhood memories and past experiences. I will continue creating art under the theme of memories and "the landscape in our hearts", but also to reflect on the experiences I’ll be gaining.

I'm also envisioning an exhibition in a faraway land while imagining all the people and experiences I've yet to meet.

Close-up view of Shiozawa's "Sky Ensemble". Many of her paintings feature tiny drawings of girls whom she calls "residents of leap second".

ー Lastly, do you have a message for your viewers?

Shiozawa: Whenever I'm creating art, my wish is that each and every viewer will feel that they are the protagonist in the artwork. After visiting my exhibition and returning to their daily lives, I hope my artworks bring about some change in their hearts, no matter how small.

Shiozawa’s "Beyond the sea of melody", Whitestone Karuizawa Gallery

Tiny beings going on a dazzling adventure set in a fantastic scene. Place yourself in their shoes and journey across the paintings. Or imagine yourself inside the projected images on the gallery walls, or in the tracing paper landscape illuminated by searchlights. Then you can truly experience Shiozawa's art through the five senses.

Shiozawa’s solo exhibition "Beyond the sea of melody" will be held at the Whitestone Karuizawa Gallery until November 27th, 2022. You can also view her artworks and past exhibitions online.

View exhibition details »

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