Rajul Shah

"My work is inspired by a desire to find calm and spiritual peace in the world. I believe in the close connection between emotional and physical well-being. My intention is to create images that provide an escape and meditative, calming experience."

Kintsugi Earth - Acrylic & 23kt gold leaf on wood 40 x 50 cm

A global artist, Rajul moved to Japan in 2012 after retiring from her first career in healthcare. She trained extensively across oil, Sumi-e/Nihonga, and acrylic for 7 years between the Tokyo Campus of Temple’s Tyler School of Art and Professional/Studio workshops. Upon moving to Singapore in 2019, she continues to train at the LaSalle College of the Arts and other workshops.

While use of color is inspired by her Indian heritage, Rajul is highly influenced by the Japanese concept of Ma (Maah), which is defined as a pause in time or an interval/emptiness in space. Her artwork renders purposeful use of space that gives structure to the composition; allowing for a harmonious relationship between form and non-form/positive and negative space. The "free" space allows for a reflective, in-depth and emotional interpretation of the painting in its entirety.

Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in Singapore and Japan, including the ION Art Orchard Gallery, the Ueno No Mori Art Museum (Royal Art Museum) in Japan, the National Art Gallery in Tokyo, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno, the Intercontinental Hotel in Osaka and the ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel in Kobe.

 


 

The Japanese Art of Kintsugi

Introduction

If you’ve ever been to Japan, you know it’s a uniquely aesthetic experience.  While the experience of Japanese hospitality (Omotenashi) leaves one feeling like royalty; there is a sense of experiential beauty every second of the day.  Whether it’s the presentation of the food on your plate, the calming zen of a Japanese garden or the simple serving of tea; a typical day in Japan gives you a peak into life perfected.  The simplicity feels luxurious.  In Japan life imitates art and art imitates life.  The two concepts are intertwined in a symbiotic relationship.  One simply could not exist without the other.  Sumi-E brush painting, Woodblock prints, Washi paper, Pottery…even the weave of a traditional Kimono carry meaning and a purposeful translation of an object’s spirit and function into the artwork.  The Japanese art of Kintsugi is the perfect amalgamation of all that is Japanese.

Kintsugi

Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi is the art of mending broken items.  Using adhesive and gold or silver metal; a broken piece of ceramic/pottery is glued back together along its break lines.  In other cultures, a chipped teapot or broken bowl would often be thrown out and a new one bought to take its place; thereby “saving” the function of the broken item, rather than the item itself.

In Japan when a piece of pottery is broken, it is the item itself which is repaired.  Not only does this preserve the function for which the piece was intended; but it also adds an element of beauty that was not seen before.  A cup which serves as a vessel to transfer delicious tea; a bowl which serves hot, steamy Ramen; and/or a ceramic structure to display the delicate brushes an artist uses for painting are “reborn” into stronger, “wiser” and more beautiful forms of themselves.

Aspects of Japanese culture are intermingled with the development and continuity of this artform include Wabi-Sabi, Mottainai and Mushin. Wabi refers to transient and stark beauty.  Sabi refers to the beauty of natural patina and aging.  Mottainai is an expression of regret at waste.  Mushin is the need to accept change.  There is also a belief that everything has a life.  Whether it be a teacup or a stone by a waterfall, every object has a Kami (spirit).

A vessel is dropped and breaks on the floor into 5 large pieces.  The beauty of the original vessel is accepted to be transient.  The vessel is not wasted.  It is repaired by gluing the original pieces to each other; allowing for the natural beauty of the piece to come through.  As the vessel is restored to its original purpose, its imperfections have been embraced, it is admired for its “scars” which speak to the beauty of the vessel’s age and experience.  A teacup is held with reverence for its “service” and its spirit.

History

The art of Kintsugi started somewhere in the 15th century.  It is said that Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa broke his Chinese celadon tea bowl and sent it back to China for repair. The bowl is repaired with metal pins holding it together – like staples – as this was the standard mode of repair. The Shogun was not happy with the bowl’s appearance. So local master craftsmen experienced in the art of lacquer and maki-e (painting fine gold and silver landscapes onto lacquer trays and objects) came up with a more aesthetically pleasing solution. They mended the broken pieces together filling the cracks with lacquer-made tree sap, known as urushi.  (This material has been used for some 9,000 years by Japanese lacquer masters as a glue, putty, or paint.)  Once the urushi was applied and the bowl was structurally strong, gold or silver paint would be applied over the break lines, making the piece unique.

By the 17th century, Kintsugi came into its own. It is at this time that a Japanese warrior decided to purchase and purposely break standard tea bowls.  He repaired them to resell and make a profit. According to Louise Cort (the curator of ceramics at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery), “That seems to indicate that, by the beginning of the 17th century, kintsugi was a commonly used technique for repairing—and at the same time, ornamenting—ceramics for tea,”

Kintsugi Techniques: Piece-Method, Crack & Joint-Call

Within Kintsugi there are three types of methods that are typically used.  They are the piece-method, crack and joint-call.  All three of these techniques use epoxy (replacing urushi), gold and silver.  The finished results can look very different.

The piece-method is using epoxy to glue pieces together and fill in spaces where pieces are too small or fragmented to enjoin. Lacquer is also used as a putty to fill in any gaps or holes where chips from the original vessel might be missing.  This method can be the most challenging because the epoxy/lacquer cannot be removed once it’s dry. Structurally, the pieces must be glued in place at the same time.  The artisan may have to glue 15 pieces back together in a very short few minutes.

Kintsugi Earth II - Acrylic, canvas & 23kt gold leaf on wood 40 x 50 cm
Kintsugi Ice II - Acrylic, silver leaf & oil on wood 45 x 55 cm
Kintsugi Earth III - Acrylic, canvas & 23kt gold leaf on wood 40 x 50 cm
Kintsugi Ice I - Acrylic, silver leaf & oil on wood 45 x 55 cm

This review was published by Circle Foundation for the Arts © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist


 

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