Hello. My name is Mayumi Ikejiri. You can call me Mayumi.
My art activities involve the drawing of scenic places in Northern Osaka near Kyoto.
My theme is “Love.”
I would like to tell you about how I ended up with this theme, what I specifically did, and what my aspirations are.
In order to do so, it is better to tell you my life story.
I was born and raised in a rural town in Hyogo Prefecture. I lived close to the water and mountains and was always surrounded by nature. Even my backyard was full of my mother’s seasonal flowers. She was not only good at planting, but also a pro at making things. She would say that “the imagination skill is an asset,” and even before I started talking, she would read me storybooks, gave me crayons, and taught me origami. She was also very passionate about enriching the mind and soul, so in order to encourage a positive mindset, she taught her children about different word usages. Unlike my optimistic mother, however, my traditional father was very sensitive and very strict at one point. He was very diligent, responsible, and there were times when I was scared of him, but he took me to the pool during the summer, took me skating during the winter, introduced me to different board games, and other various activities. Out of everything he introduced, I got addicted to Hyakunin Isshu (poem card game) when I was around 9 years old. I practiced with my younger brother and sister, and eventually learned all the waka rhythms (Japanese poems) and their outlook on the world with my whole body.
In middle school, I started kendo. As I endured the difficult training, which tested me mentally and physically, I was able to touch upon the philosophy that the people in the past put upon kendo. Within the ten year period, I learned about the preciousness of life and the love and respect for each other.
After graduating high school, I started working at Kikkoman (Japanese food manufacturer). I learned that soy sauce, which is a traditional Japanese condiment, has a very deep meaning behind it. Through the food culture, I was able to recapture my understanding of Japan.
During my teens, I was lucky to be able to touch upon Japanese traditional culture through martial art and the food culture.
However, during my mid twenties, I fell ill and was forced to take a break from work. The pain was unbearable, that I even thought about choosing death. But, I was unable to. Choosing death upon myself was not beautiful. I realized that not being beautiful was more unbearable for me.
Then what is “beauty”? The answer I found was life.
During that time, I was not living for myself, but was rather just alive. I existed, while the people around me did anything for my living heart. As I laid there listening to my heartbeat and my breathing, I suddenly realized that I had the power to validate life. This not only meant my life, but also the existence of Earth, Space, and something that is also the smallest and the largest… I decided to call this “love.”
I want to make use of this life. This thought came to me naturally. However, I did not know how. I began thinking that I had no value, especially because I could not work. What is working? What can I do with my life? Moreso, what am I? I questioned myself. “Who are you?”
“I am an artist.”
That answer suddenly came to me. It was out of my character, so it was hard to believe. I never took a specialized course on art. I had to think. What are artists? My answer was “a person who expresses freely and creates.” I can do that! I was able to tell myself that because when I was bedbound, I strongly prayed and continuously made small progress. This, itself, is the deepening understanding of love and the express of gratitude. From my experience, I realized that love and gratitude always comes back to you. I decided that my artworks will be “the circulation of love and gratitude.”
I reflected on my life, and found the most valuable treasure that my parents rooted and trained me in: the Japanese language. I selected 10 poems and entered them in a public exhibition. My title was “Easy Happy Harmony (Work).” I expressed my gratitude towards all the kind and warm people in my life and everything that allowed me to continue living. I prayed that all of it would circulate back to the world. Out of the 80,000 other poem works, my work was selected as “giving people new hope.”
After quitting my job, one day, I encountered the Horatius’ words, “poems are like art.” From 2013, with my technique of using pastel with my fingers, I started drawing. From 2014, I became a permanent artist at a gallery in Berlin and a member of JCAT (Japanese Contemporary Artists Team) in New York, where I continue to exhibit my artworks.
Other than pastel, I use hemp from Miyako-jima, natural stone powder (ruby, turquoise, and lapis lazuli), flower essence, and other natural materials. From 2018, I have been using a paintbrush, and in 2019, I challenged myself on an iPad Pro.
As mentioned previously, art “creates the circulation of love and gratitude.”
Drawing is not the only method. I would like to introduce 3 things.
First is my ability to play the instrument, “Tao Lyre.” In 2014, I joined a training camp in Kyoto when the creator of the Tao Lyre, Andreas Lehmann visited Japan. There, I carved and stringed my very own instrument. I named it MOMO. Unlike a lyre, which you can play a song on, the Tao Lyre only plays the DEAB notes. It can play 4 octaves on the 48 strings, which are on a plank of cherry blossom wood. Created by the theme of “remembering the real me,” the 432 Hz sound of beautiful tone and vibrating overtone, makes this instrument very healing. Even though it is known for its power to heal and a form of meditation, for me, it is like a friend that I can play with. It is a partner who does art with me. It was also very popular during my 2017 performance at Ouchi Gallery in New York.
Second is “Hugging the Earth.” When I was a little girl, it was something I used to do before going to bed or when I was in the mood to play. Before I knew, it became very important to me. It is easy to learn and anyone with imagination can play. It is simply pretending that the Earth is a baby and you must show love by hugging it. I used to love carrying it with both arms and gently singing it a lullaby. I will sometimes share this on social media and tell everyone, “if you like it, please feel free to do it with me.”
Last, but not least, is the “LOVE SEED PROJECT.” Everyone has that one word that they carry around like a treasure. I named such a treasure-like word, LOVE SEED. I believe that it has the power to change the world and fill it with lots of love. I share this idea through the people I meet with my art. Like a plant that flourishes with the right soil, LOVE SEED will flourish within those who believe in it. As a catalyst for the changing emotions within, it can bring smiles as the flower blooms and create a new love into the world.
For me, art is a form of play in life, a prayer, and a form of expression for love. I would like to create the cycle of love and gratitude, encourage understanding, and allow art to unconsciously connect people and the Earth. Colored by love and gratitude, the ode to joy, “the song of Earth,” is something I want to sing with everyone and let the whole universe hear.