“That ability results no little bit from Fujimura’s formal, and technical, mastery of scale. His paintings, no matter their size, display one of two scales, vast and intimate. These two extremes are oppositional in human regard; but in nature, where Fujimura’s art thrives, they are simply two sides of the same coin. In life, after all, as in his art, the thunderous emptiness of the sea abuts the granular detail – the living as well as mineral highlights. – of the beach. In life we habituate somatically to such jumps in natural scale; Fujimura wants to reassert such dimensional elasticity in his painting as a testament to the miracle of the world itself and the position of humankind, at once fixed and fluid, within it.”
—Peter Frank (Los Angeles critic) recent review: MAKOTO FUJIMURA: AN IMMANENT ABSTRACTION
The Eye of the Storm
Walking on Water images began as Fujimura’s elegy to the victims of March 11, 2011 Tohoku Great Earthquake and Tsunami, and now has become an emblem of the "cries of our earth, cries of our hearts". The paintings are featured as main pieces to commemorate the 20th commemoration of 9/11/01, and the 10th commemoration of 3/11/11 at the Highline Nine Gallery in September, 2021.
The works were installed as the superstorm Ida brought unprecedented rain and flooding on September 1, 2021. Fujimura noted that "we were in the 'eye of the storm' throughout, and miraculously loaded and installed during the five hour window that the storm did not affect us." The installation and the exhibit literally mark creating in the "eye of the storm."
The series had continued as a collaboration with visionary composer and avant-garde percussionist Susie Ibarra (Listen to her album Walking on Water, which was composed in response to Fujimura's earlier Walking on Water series). Ibarra took an underwater microphone to Himalayan hills, to record the sound of glaciers breaking and melting, and uses that as the immersive backdrop to her composition. (Listen to the interview with Susie by Culture Care Creative team, "Light Through the Cracks by clicking on this link). Walking on Water, therefore now, has become an elegy to the climate change crisis, as well as an homage to human resilience of hope in dire circumstances. Fujimura and Ibarra hope to install the paintings and the music in a series of museums and sacred spaces, as a way to create a generative path toward a future renewal. Therefore, it is fitting that Fujimura's Walking on Water pieces were installed during the superstorm Ida.
Painted often outside in his Princeton studio, Fujimura uses coarsely pulverized azurite and malachite and asks the question, “can we walk on water?” The image of Walking on Water - Azurite II was also used for the cover of Fujimura’s book Art+Faith: A Theology of Making (Yale University Press, 2021). To Fujimura, to paint is to discover the new vista of New Creation, while noting the fractures and pulverized earth beneath him.
In addition, Walking on Water-Banquo's Dream had intersected with another superstorm Sandy. As Fujimura attempted to finish this piece, the superstorm Sandy hit in November of 2012, wiping over fifty pieces of Fujimura's works at Dillon Gallery on 25th Street, Chelsea, New York City. Thus, for Fujimura, the process of painting has now become, literally, a way to "walk on water.” Fujimura writes:
"Walking on Water—Banquo’s Dream was inspired by watching my second son Clayton play Banquo at Bucknell University’s production of Macbeth. I began the painting soon after, and finished the work as Sandy blew over my new studio in Princeton area. Sandy caused a prolonged power outage, but Nihonga technique, fortunately, is pre-electricity, so I was determined to continue to work.
A heavey summons lies like lead on me,
And yet I would not sleep. Merciful powers,
Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature
Gives way to in repose!
—Banquo, in Macbeth"
The limited edition etching "Two Waves" relates to the above Walking on Water series. "Two Waves" was printed by a legendary Master Printer, Pascal Girouden, a French copper etching Master Printer who has worked directly with Chagal, Moore, and other artists in Paris. Fujimura was privileged to pull these prints as Girouden's last series of etchings. Copper Etching process is intensely laborious and there are only a handful Master Printers left. The acid etched copper plates are inked and lifted one by one, creating an identical image of 15 prints.
"Two Waves" harkens to Fujimura's images related to the "Qu4rtets" project in honor of T.S. Eliiot's "Four Quartets". Recently, Fujimura was asked by Trinity Forum to write a foreword for Eliot's iconic poem, and Fujimura wrote the essay as an elegy to the memory of September 11, 2001. Eliot's poems served as a "guide" to Fujimura during the dark days following 9/11, as he became a "Ground Zero" resident, and his children became the "Ground Zero Children" for the ensuing ten years after, literally facing Ground Zero everyday. Fujimura's art, in such context, is a direct path to create images of sanctification and asking "can we walk on water?" or "can we walk through Ground Zero to find hope?" In Eliot's words "But hear, half-heard, in the stillness/Between two waves of the sea", Fujimura found resonance through the cracks and fragments of trauma.