From the atelier in Kita-Kamakura ~ Prayers delivered by the Kannon painter Momenka ~


10 minutes walk from Kita-Kamakura station. Passing by residential areas lined with lush green trees, we climb steadily up the slope. After passing through a narrow path, you will arrive at a building that feels like a hideout surrounded by nature. When I opened the door labeled ``kokotama gallery,'' a white dog cheerfully greeted me, acting like a gatekeeper.

``I was born and raised in Tokyo, and since 2015 I have moved to Kita-Kamakura.
The first thing I thought after moving to Kita-Kamakura was that the mountains were much closer to my daily life than I had imagined. ”

So says Yuuka, the owner of ``kokotama gallery'' and a Kannon painter based in Kita-Kamakura. Cherry blossoms and beautifully blooming lotus flowers stand out against the golden background. You can enjoy seasonal flowers and scenes from her works created in this area that is loved by nature.

``I was moved by the fact that I was not surrounded by urban nature, but rather a satoyama that had been loved by local people since ancient times, and I could feel the changing seasons through the trees and flowers.
The sky is wide, and you can clearly see the moon and stars at night, and the wind from the mountains and the sounds of birds and insects are very soothing. I think it's the perfect place for a production environment.
The sea is just a short walk away, and of course there are many historic temples and shrines, which is also a fun place.
Most of all, the people in the area are very warm and always helpful. I am once again realizing the importance of connections between people. ”

Born and raised in Tokyo, but attending high school in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture has fond memories of Kanagawa Prefecture, where he spent his time as a student. What did the scenery of Yokohama look like in her eyes?

``When I was in high school, I commuted to Motomachi every day from Tokyo.
The slope leading from the station to the school through the foreign cemetery was so steep that I remember being out of breath every day. nostalgic.
The place where I spent my student days includes a foreign cemetery, a Western-style building in Yamate, and Chinatown, giving the impression that it is a stylish and artistic town where you can feel the atmosphere of another country.
Ships in the harbor, parks full of flowers, and red brick warehouses are all picturesque places. I love the moon over the sea, the orange-tinged night sky over the port, and the slightly lively neon lights of Minato Mirai, all of which are romantic.
Recently, the Yokohama Triennale has become a hot topic, and I think many people are interested in art. When I had a solo exhibition at a gallery in Motomachi, I had a strong impression that everyone was enjoying art very easily. ”

After graduating from high school, he left Japan and entered university in the United States. Living overseas gave him the opportunity to reconsider the country of Japan and his own future, and he talked about the feelings he developed for Kannon.

``Studying abroad in the United States in college allowed me to look at my country from a different perspective.
When people from other countries ask me about Japan, there are many things they don't know, so I started wanting to know more about Japan and tell it to as many people as possible, so I started visiting shrines and temples, learning about kimono dressing, and Japanese painting. I searched for it within myself.
Among them, the one that attracted me the most was Kannon.
I became more interested when I learned that Kannon, who has a figure similar to that of humans, is very approachable, and that there are other figures such as Tathagata, Myoo, and Tenbu.
Above all, when I came face to face with Kannon, I was moved by its profound beauty, its tolerant power, and the many layers of prayer that dwell there, spanning over many years.
When I was in the midst of job hunting and was thinking about my career path, 3.11 happened, and prayers from all over the world were delivered to Japan, and I was deeply moved by the fact that the heart of prayer has no relation to country or religion, which made me want to become a painter. was strongly influenced. ”

Many people may have learned about the profession of Kannon painter for the first time through this column. For me as well, Kannon is an absolute presence, and I have never had the opportunity to encounter her from an art perspective. I felt a little nervous, wondering if I would be able to understand.

Despite such concerns, the Kannon statue depicted on a large and small canvas, surrounded by gentle colors and beautiful flowers, quietly smiled and entered my heart. I was surprised to see that even just that one smile had such rich and different expressions. Compassion, beauty, grace, and love. Up until now, I had had a rather ``static'' image of Kannon, but the Kannon she depicts coexists with the seasons and nature, and is ``moving'' in a colorful scene.

``I think there are many people who are not interested in Kannon or don't understand it well.
I would like people to feel free to view my work as they see fit, rather than feeling like they have to look at it this way because it's Kannon.
Every time I hold a solo exhibition, I use a theme to convey the message I want to convey at that time, and I create my works with the hope that they will be close to everyone. I would be happy if you could cherish what you feel depending on how you perceive it. ”

"I hope you can feel free to take a look." Just as these words say, the work itself tells us, ``It's okay to enjoy yourself freely.''
For example, when you visit a Western art museum, you can enjoy the works as art without knowing that many of the paintings have a religious background. In the same way, the Kannon statues painted by Momenka allow even those who are not familiar with Buddhism to enjoy the works without hesitation, and by gaining knowledge, they can appreciate them even more deeply.

One piece that symbolizes this approachability and freedom is "Kokotama," which is designed in a round and adorable form.

“Kokotama is written as kokotama and is pronounced as kokotama.
In Buddhism it is a jewel, in Shintoism it is a peach to protect against evil spirits, and in nature it is shaped like a bud or a drop.
By painting on that plump and warm shape, I hoped to create a work that people could wrap their hands around and enjoy looking at up close.
kokotama was born with the hope that this work would be a beautiful bead that honestly reflects the heart of the person who picks it up. ”

Not only on canvas, but also through works expressed in wooden spheres, visitors can experience Buddhism, which is deeply rooted in this country, from a variety of perspectives.
The Kannon depicted by cotton flowers is not only friendly, but also has a hidden compassion and strength unique to Kannon. When I asked her about the thoughts that are important to her when working on her work, she told me about her sincere feelings towards Kannon.

``I am grateful for being able to work as a Kannon painter.
I think that Kannon is something that is difficult to draw just by thinking about what you want to draw. Knowledge is also important, and by visiting, experiencing, and facing Kannon with your own feet, you will gradually be able to take a step towards creating your own work.
What kind of history has each temple and Kannon statue been cherished by the local people, and what kind of place is that area? Take your time, research, visit, and dig into things that interest you. When it comes to Buddhist statues, it's best to see them in real life rather than through photos or videos, and most of all, it's often easier to see them by knowing what kind of temple or area they live in.
When I get stuck at some point in my research, I sometimes end up thinking that now is not the time to try to draw this Kannon statue, and give up. Up until now, there have been many Kannon statues that I have been able to draw by chance or through mysterious connections, and I cherish those encounters and connections from time to time, and I cherish each and every piece that I can draw. I think it's a special thing to be able to draw Kannon, the object of prayer, so I want to do my best as long as I can continue to do so, with gratitude in my heart for being able to draw every day. . ”

It is because they have cherished once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that they have led to a wide range of activities, including collaborative projects with artists and cafes. We asked Momenhana about his future prospects.

``As a Kannon painter, if there is anything I can do to contribute to Kannon and temples, I would like to actively work on it.
Last year, I had the privilege of drawing the Gohonzon for the first time at the request of Mr. Miidera.
Up until then, I had never drawn based on a specific Buddhist statue, so it was a difficult challenge, but it turned out to be a very valuable experience.
Later, I was fortunate enough to be able to paint the principal image of Hasedera Temple in Nara.
If I have the opportunity to paint the Gohonzon again, I would definitely like to try it again.
I have big dreams that once the coronavirus subsides, I would be able to hold a solo exhibition in places I have never held before and be able to show my work to the world. ”

She concluded by explaining how she became a Kannon painter.

``Anyone can pray.And the feeling of praying for someone's happiness has never changed.I believe that the spirit of prayer resides in Buddhist statues that have been cherished for many years.'' Ta.
My first step to becoming a Kannon painter was my strong desire to create works that would touch the heart of prayer and be cherished by many people into the future. ”

The prayers she paints touch people's hearts, and those prayers connect with others in her work as a Kannon painter. At a time when prayer is needed everywhere in the world, I silently prayed that her work would reach as many people as possible around the world.


Cotton flower (Yuka)
Kannon painter

Born in Tokyo.

Raised in a creative environment with parents who were active in the fashion industry, she was exposed to a variety of sensibilities at university and majored in painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts with the desire to expand her worldview.

In the first year, he studied at BOSTON UNIVERSITY, and in the second year, he transferred to NEW YORK UNIVERSITY.
In 2011, he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts and graduated with honors from NEW YORK UNIVERSITY.

After graduating from university and returning to Japan, he worked as a designer and illustrator, but felt that his passion for painting was growing stronger, and in 2013 he decided to pursue his career as a painter. Held his first solo exhibition.

After leaving Japan and living abroad, I had the opportunity to look at Japan from a different perspective than before, and was once again fascinated by Japan's traditions and culture. I was moved by the Kannon statue, which has been loved and cherished by people for a long time, and the spirit of prayer that has been passed down since ancient times, and I felt that I wanted to draw a picture that touched the heart. It depicts a Kannon of prayer and harmony that transcends the concept of.

In addition to painting, he also focuses on creating unique three-dimensional works of cotton flowers called kokotama (heart beads). The name kokotama comes from the meaning of ``a beautiful bead that honestly reflects one's heart,'' and a picture is drawn on a wooden bead shaped like a jewel.
Each piece is created with great care, with the hope that it will not only be a piece of work that you enjoy looking at, but that you will want to wrap it in your hands and look at it.

In addition to painting, he also takes on the challenge of collaborating with artists, cafes, etc., and is expanding his worldview into various fields. He is currently based at his own gallery, kokotama gallery, which opened in Kita-Kamakura in 2015.

Instagram: kokotama_youka
Twitter: @kokotamayouka
Facebook: kokotamyouka
Website: https://www.youkamiuryu.com/

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