Japanese artist Michiko Suzuki will present her exhibit Hope Chests beginning on May 19th at the Burnaby Art Gallery. In her print project,each of the eight white silk tents represent a different girl of a diverse cultural group and her story, illustrating beauty through unique means of symbolism.
Suzuki’s inspiration for the Hope Chests project stemmed from the horrors of sex trafficking and a desire to do something about it through her artwork.
“I wanted to give some encouragement to children, the younger generation, especially girls,” says Suzuki, “so I started making beautiful things for girls.”
A symbolic statement
Riddled with symbolism of Japanese culture and of the young girls, the tents hold meaning on their insides as well as on their exteriors.
“The boxes open like a Kimono,” says Suzuki about the hope chests inside the tents.
White silks symbolize purity. Inside the ‘sacred’ tent, only one individual is able to enter at a time, creating a peaceful space for the viewer to be alone with the artwork.
“It’s just them and the artwork, that’s it, no distractions,” says Suzuki’s husband and fellow artist Wayne Eastcott.
“Each girl was very excited,” Suzuki says in reference to the four Canadian girls and four Japanese girls she modeled the hope chests around. “What’s your favourite things? What are your dreams? What are your hopes?”
These were some of the questions Suzuki asked in the extensive interviews she did with the girls.
Testing new waters
Not only are each of Suzuki’s silk tents specific to the girls they are based on, but the style of printmaking used to create them is also unique.
“Using beautiful silks and including traditional printmaking and this new kind of printing, combined together and making a very unusual, innovative kind of printing style,” says Suzuki on her decision making process with regards to the tents.
For Suzuki, the Hope Chests project posed new elements to her way of making art. It was the printmaking technique as well as all the difference aspects of Hope Chests that differed so much from Suzuki’s traditional works.
“Hope Chests was a totally different style,” says Suzuki. “It was a huge jump for me, kind of a challenge.”
Started in 2010, Hope Chests is also the longest project Suzuki had ever worked on.
“And she did everything herself, she didn’t have any help from anybody for anything,” says Eastcott. “She put her heart and soul in all the printing, all the collaging, everything.”
The back and forth
Over the years, Suzuki and Eastcott have made many trips between Canada and Japan. One of these visits to Japan in September of 2012 included the showing of the half completed Hope Chestsproject, featuring the Canadian girls at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.
Originally from Japan, and well known as an artist there, Suzuki immigrated to Canada through an invitation sent by the University of Alberta and has been a part of the Canadian print community ever since.
“Japan has a traditional history about printmaking,” says Suzuki.
Starting with the traditional way of making traditional art in Japan, Suzuki “started to feel tight.”
“I think Canada feels more free,” Suzuki says about her ability to take more risks with her art in Canada, by being separated from the traditional printmaking. “I very much feel free here, I can make anything.”
The Hope Chests opening reception happens May 19 from 7–9 pm. The exhibit will be ongoing until June 12. For more information, please visit: https://www.burnaby.ca/Things-To-Do/Arts-and-Heritage/Burnaby-Art-Gallery/Exhibitions/Michiko-Suzuki–Hope-Chests.html