Richard Bright: Can we begin by you saying something about your background?
Miya Ando: I’m of mixed heritage; I’m half Japanese and half Russian/Ukranian descent. I spent part of my childhood living with my mother’s family in a small Buddhist temple in Okayama, Japan. I spent the other part of my childhood in the Santa Cruz Mountains, on 25 acres of redwood forest. Both have informed and inspired my philosophy and approach to the making of art.
RB: What is the underlying focus and vocabulary of your work?
MA: I am interested in time and temporality; our relationship to time and our perception of time. The vocabulary I often employ is fleeting light, experienced by the viewer as they walk around my paintings on metal, for example. Creating scenarios wherein the viewer is made aware of the present moment and transitory moments is something I investigate. I often employ the vernacular of nature, such as shifting light.
RB: Your work has a strong contemplative, transcendent quality, evoking contrasts between the steadfast and the ephemeral, the secular and spiritual. Can you say something about this?
MA: I’m drawn to the dual nature of things and often look at juxtaposition my work; things that may seem permanent and yet have an impermanent nature. I’m influenced by a Buddhist notion which states that “the fundamental nature of reality is that all constituent forms that make up the universe are temporary”. I am also interested in creating moments of tranquility and putting forth contemplative imagery which may promote, even if only for a moment a meditative state or opportunity of awareness to the viewers.
RB: Buddhism revolves around the discipline of practice, the focus on refining one’s actions, not the expounding of a theory. There is also the term ‘artistic practice’. How much weight does ‘practice’ feature in your work?
MA: I approach the making of art with a rigor and a discipline, which is the way I was raised. I’m in the studio daily, I’ve always had a 7 day a week practice since I began making artwork. I think it is a practice to connect the heart (kokoro), the intellect (mind) and the hands in the making of art – I think of it as a literal practice, something that requires work and effort and daily attention in order to improve and distill.
RB: The foundation of your practice is the transformation of surfaces. How important is the use of light in this?
MA: I consider light to be the main attribute of the works; it’s the vocabulary of shifting, fleeting and transitory light which visually communicates and reiterates the concept of time in the works.
RB: Many of your paintings evoke the feeling of landscape stripped to just its horizon. How important is landscape, or the ‘sense of place’, to your work?
MA: I’m interested in a universal language which has the same meaning to all people. Any time a rectilinear form is bisected, it’s automatically a horizon to any human viewer; this has been my experience thus far.
RB: The Zen master, D.T. Suzuki, wrote “Emptiness which is conceptually liable to be mistaken for sheer nothingness is in fact the reservoir of infinite possibilities”. You have described your work as “studies in nothingness”. How does your spiritual practice inform your exploration of reduction and minimalism?
MA: I’m Buddhist, my grandfather was a Buddhist (Nichiren) priest. I’m interested in Zen and find Zen teachings and ideas to be highly influential in my work. My mother is a teacher of Urasenke and she and I are both interested in Zen poetry and words. Emptiness and nothingness are completely different in Buddhism. I could discuss this subject matter in a lengthy essay, but for the purpose of answering the question, I’ll say that the idea of Emptiness is something I look at very carefully in my artwork. I have been putting forth for several years a series of works called Kuu (which in Japanese means both Empty and Sky) as an investigation into this idea.
RB: Your work encourages us to observe ourselves in the shifting process of observing and, by doing so, transforms our relationship to perception. Is this how you wish your art to be perceived?
MA: Difficult to state how I would like my works to be perceived since every person is unique and I don’t know what each viewer’s perception will be. Each I believe is as relevant as any. Perception is about consciousness and awareness and differs for each viewer. I hope that the works are a dialogue in which I create a work, it is viewed and perceived by a viewer and creates a scenario for a shift in perception or a small transformation.
RB: Do you seek harmony in your work, both for yourself and the viewer?
MA: Yes definitely. I find the process of making artwork to be meditative and comforting, even if I am working with fire or acids or welding or sanding metals. I seek solace in the rigor, its my own form of Mushin or No Mind training. Particulary this year I feel such a sense of disparateness in the world, especially in politics. I find it is more and more important to put forth works which are mediations on peace, peacefulness and quietude and so I am currently focusing on these realms.
All images copyright and courtesy of Miya Ando
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