In Focus

Maki Tamura, Untitled Scroll #17

Embodying a broad range of influences, including Japanese woodblock and ukiyo-e prints, Indonesian hand-printed textiles and batik, East and Southeast Asian painting, and 19th- and 20th-century Japanese and Western children's books, Maki Tamura's Untitled Scroll #17 interweaves watercolor painting and linoleum print on mulberry paper attached to linen. Within the strict format of the scroll, Tamura combines these various pictorial languages and spatial relationships into dense patterns that fuse the soft, lyrical elements of watercolor painting and the hard-edges of printing. The apposition of seemingly disparate imagery and decorative elements reflects Tamura's ongoing search to discover "common roots of transformed motifs."[1] These visual marks and individual motifs—"footprints or artifacts that have traveled from the past" [2]—collected and archived in the artist's studio, are reassembled into a subtle organization suggesting layers accumulated over time.

Untitled Scroll #17 is loosely divided into three sections. The top part shows an ocean of small cartoon animals punctuated by words such as "Kanagawa Prefecture" in kanji, or Chinese characters, and excerpts from an English dictionary. Sock monkeys swim through acidic blue bubbles on the top left hand side. For Tamura, the top part of the scroll, with pink and blue icons of animals and texts, can be viewed as cerebral space, a space of knowledge.

The second part starts with the word "ice cream," inspired by the decal on the door of a cafe by a bus stop near Tamura's home in Seattle. Below, a Victorian border design on a warm pink background encases golden Victorian fonts, mauve floral and bear designs, and dark red "X's." Echoing the mauve flowers and bears, acid blue bands support the words "snow, snow," and "moonlight."

Finally, the third part shows a dreamy, fairytale landscape, reminiscent of the Arabian Nights, enclosed in deep blue-violet borders with a design of sacred cows. In the same deep blue-violet color, a round stamp showing the face of an Indian film star repeats itself. The bottom part, with the fairytale landscape painting, can be viewed as "an illusionistic space, like the one found during the Renaissance period." [3] The "understanding and visualization of different types of space" is one of the most important ideas underlying Tamura's practices. [4]

[1] Maki Tamura, telephone conversation with author (Suzanne Weaver), 28 September 2001

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

Adapted from

  • Suzanne Weaver, DMA unpublished material, 2001.

  • Suzanne Weaver, Concentrations 40: Maki Tamura (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2001), n.p.