Painting of the Month

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The Color of Copper by Paula Martiesian

Lately I have been drawing inspiration from a 17th century Japanese painter named Tawaraya Sotatsu (early 1600s). He created large-scale screen paintings and collaborated with calligrapher Hon’am Koetsu on small poem cards. Sotatsu worked in Kyoto at about the same time Rembrandt was painting in Amsterdam.

Each day in my studio I open a book on Sotatsu and stare at a different page, hoping to somehow absorb by osmosis his open-ended sense of space. I am convinced if I look long enough, Sotatsu’s talents and insights will jump from the page into my mind.

His bold compositions enthuse, but it is his range that astounds. I am half convinced he had multiple personalities. How else could he have achieved such extreme finesse one moment and a crude, childlike quality the next? I don’t know if he lived and worked by the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi-sabi, the philosophy of accepting transience and imperfections, but it seems to me he must have. Across the divide of culture and time this man, who painted 400 years ago, speaks to me more intensely then most of my contemporaries.

View The Color of Copper in person at the URI Providence Campus Gallery March 1 through March 31, 2017. It will be part of the exhibit 30 Years of Women’s History.

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