Viet Nam News
At 81, Japanese sculptor Katsumi Mukai shows no signs of stopping, continuing to work on big tree trunks to create giant sculptures. Việt Nam’s beautiful landscapes are an endless inspiration, he says. The famous artist, who has exhibited in many countries, tells Minh Thu that he is determined to work until his last breath and dedicate the rest of his life for art activities in Việt Nam.
You have been part of the Art in the Forest (AITF) programme in Vĩnh Phúc Province for the last two years. Can you talk about your inspiration to create for this project?
The project was launched by painter Vũ Hồng Nguyên in 2015. He introduced it to me last year. It impressed me that the project gives artists good conditions, including financial support, to exercise their creativity. There is no limit for us. We find inspiration and decide on the art work’s content, material and scale. The organiser meets all the demands. I think art is receiving worthy investment and concern in Việt Nam.
Last year, I worked on iron wood. The 26-tonne sculpture, Forest of Sunlight, was inspired by nature. This year, the Family sculpture was made with teak wood, inspired by people.
Nguyên thinks iron wood is too much for my age. So he finds me a teak trunk imported from Myanmar. The material is softer than iron wood.
People have been the constant theme in my works throughout the years. Having participated in many international sculpture camps, with hands-on feelings and opportunities to interact with different cultures, the relationships with people offer a precious chance to revisit one’s personal working journey. And my creations are based on such trips, encounters and sense of the self.
When did you first come to Việt Nam?
I came here for the Echoes of Nature exhibition organised by Asia Art Link, the association connecting Asian artists, at the Việt Nam Museum of Fine Arts. I showed some wooden sculptures and paintings with other Asian artists.
I will come back to Việt Nam in May next year to join another exhibition of Asia Art Link. I can’t wait.
How does Việt Nam inspire you?
Everyday, the most important thing for me, that urges me to create, is to immerse myself with nature, feeling the scent of the breezes, the sound of falling snow and the chill of fogs.
In Việt Nam, every afternoon, when the sun descends beside my workshop, I let my heart drift away into the many sounds of insects and the colours of the sky. Being immersed in such a space, I can concentrate on creating.
As I carve the wood planks, I am on a journey to confront myself… where the only thing that remains in the world is the artwork.
Have you visited many places in Việt Nam?
I just stay at the Flamingo Đại Lải Resort in Vĩnh Phúc Province where the AITF programme takes place. The second place is the Fine Arts Museum in Hà Nội.
I’m not a traveller. I’m an artist and I’m here to work. I totally focus on it.
During the AITF programme, you worked and stayed with other artists in one month. How was that experience?
I get a lot of help from other artists because I’m the oldest (smile). We easily understand and sympathise with each other, though language is a barrier. We’ve had a memorable time together.
I was very moved when young artist Vũ Bình Minh created a 25-tonne Summer Cloud sculpture for me. It will remind me of the wonderful time and of colleagues in Việt Nam when I return to Japan. — VNS