Regeneration: works by Tsuneko Kokubo and Toru Fujibayashi at Langham Cultural Centre
by Randy Enomoto
Two years in the making, the Regeneration art show opened on July 24th at the Langham Cultural Centre in Kaslo. Regeneration features the work of Tsuneko Kokubo, a painter, and Toru Fujibayashi, a sculptor. The two artists, one from near New Denver and the other from Nakusp, shared not just a gallery space, but the intersection of their father’s histories (read further).
The show, curated by Arin Fay, opened with Toru reading from his poem, Green Tea, and a dance performance by Tsuneko. Although there was not sufficient time to do sit-down interviews, I was able to get written responses to some questions I posed to Tsuneko.
Arin Fay, the curator of the show at the Langham, asked Toru and I for possible titles, but in the end we went with Arin’s suggestion of Regeneration with its implications of successive generations, as well as the new springing from the old.
What did you learn about yourself in creating the work for this exhibition?
I learned that my ancestors — whether one thinks of them as memories or entities of some kind — are actually very accessible to me. As I painted I found myself talking to them a lot, especially my grandmother (the mother of my father) who had raised me as a child in wartime Japan.
I learned that being a ‘senior artist’ actually means that I am old!
While we were setting up the show at the Langham, I learned that Toru and I shared some family similarities. His mother and my mother were, for a while, interned at the Popoff tent city (near Slocan) at the same time, and his father and my father were both sent to the Angler prison camp in Northern Ontario.
Say a bit about the creative process you go through in making your art — for example, are there triggers or “aha” moments in that process?
The creative process actually involves a lot of discipline — I try to get to the studio every day, even if I am not feeling ‘inspired.’ Some days are good and full of ‘aha’ moments, while others are bad and full of ‘ugh’ moments and I may feel that I have really messed up something that I am working on — but I know that it will be there again the next day. One good thing about painting is that I can paint over canvases that I don’t like.
‘Regeneration’ to me suggests the healing of a wounded body or the recovery of something lost. Can you comment on this interpretation?
Regeneration can mean many things, but I don’t feel that I was previously wounded and am now healed by making this art. Rather, I feel something closer to the original Latin meaning of regenerare: “create again,” in that many of the paintings were created from memories related to family and community history. These memories are getting a renewed and tangible existence in my work.
Is there a central or over-arching truth you hope to communicate in your work?
At the risk of being platitudinous, I would say:
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
(John Keats from Ode on a Grecian Urn)