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The Australian National University Institute of the Arts

Canberra School of Art




Kosuke Niwata




1: Introduction

2: Personal History

3: Works before Canberra School of Art

4: At Canberra School of Art

5: Details, Techniques, Methods

6: Works at Canberra School of Art 1993 and 1994

7: Bibliography and Influences

8:C V

9: Acknowledgements





1: Introduction


2: Personal History

I was born in Hakui, Ishikawa-ken Japan in 1967, and grew up there until 1985. My home is situated in the countryside of Japan, and it is a Buddhism temple. I have liked drawing since before I went to kindergarten.

I think my first visual interest were movies. When I was 11 years old, I watched some movies which are not made for children, like Stanley Rubric's "Shining", Francis Ford Coppola's "God Father 1 and 2" and the movie about Vietnam war, I also remember Kon Ichikawa's old Japanese mysteries and Akira Kurosawa's "Kagemusha". These movies made a strong impression on me. I remember colours of jungle, combination of light and dark, and especially bright abstract images of "Shining".

When I was 13 years old, and still living in the very traditional surroundings of my father's temple I heard British and German Pop music and started composing, influenced by some electrical music groups. My interest was mainly music. 1 watched also some movies: "Clock work Orange" and "Eraser Head". I still continued drawing, but with less interest. And 1 did not have much information about Art. But 1 liked Picasso and Modigliani. They were the only artists I was able to see, and I liked how they changed figures and shapes.

In high school, 1 was concentrating on music. And I strongly wanted to be a composer like Ryuichi Sakamoto or Brian Eno. I listened to some classical music like Verdi, Mahler, Stravinsky, Jazz, Latin music and studied musical technology, but 1 do not have an academic musical education. I hoped to be a composer one day who would use elements of modern music and traditional music. 1 wanted to be a composer, who knows lots of styles of music and composes by connecting various styles of music. For example playing pentatomic mode on structure of jazz.


Rubric. Their visual images strongly impressed me, more than their stories. Both last scenes are really beautiful abstract scenes.

In 1986, I left my home town and moved to Kyoto which was a dramatic change: there I found much more specialised information of all kinds of art. And there 1 was able to see movies of Jean Luc Godard "Pierrot Le Fou", "Maria" etc, Andrey Tarkovsky's "Ctankep", "Coarpnc", early movies of Bernardo Bertolucci, "Blue Velvet" and "ZOO".

In 1987, I enrolled in the Printmaking department of Kyoto Seika University. I still wanted to be a composer, and 1 thought if I do video art or computer graphics I can satisfy both interests for music and for the movie. In the first year of University I made two video works, and I put my own music to them. Until the second year of University, my main interest was in the visual side of movies.

In the second year, I was interested in Printmaking for the first time. I started my work with Lino cut. Lithograph, Screenprint and Etching. In that year, I discovered and loved works of Joseph Beuys, Jasper Jones, Robert Rauschenberg, Barnet Newman and Cy Twombly. They created different kinds of Art work and showed new beauty of Art work. In a famous argument Jasper Jones states, that the reason he

made works of the American Flag was that he did not have to design the American Flag. He was interested in the special qualities of the metier: there are prints of the American Flag in Etching, Lithograph and Screenprint.

Landscape 4 1989 Etching: spitbite

44.7 X 41.6 cm


Landscape 8 1989 Etching: spitbite

4 1 . 8 X 6 0 . 0 cm

of landscapes (there was influence from Jorg Schmeisser) and I spent the third year with that theme. But I did not have reason for "Why the landscape ?" I noticed I was seduced by the tone of spitbite, and 1 just wanted to work with it. But there was no reason for it to be a landscape image.

In my fourth year, Jorg Schmeisser had gone back to Canberra and Takeshi Takahara came from the

University of Michigan. He does a different type of etching, and under his influence I changed my image. I also talked with my teacher Atuhiko Musashi about my image, my identity. I had to have something that was connected with me, I needed a reason.

I grew up in a temple, and my father also works as dentist. So 1 asked him to take X ray photo of my teeth and used them as my images. Dark tone of etching worked very well with feeling of X ray photos. I made three of X ray photo etchings. This image had connection with me, they are my teeth, but I could not enjoy working with those images. It was not me. After this work, 1 could not make works for a few month. 1 made some small works with the image of an old European stone statue, but they were not very successful. Moreover the question came back to me "Why a European statue ?". In that year, I looked at a lot of works of

artist and collected them. Donald Sultan, Andy Goldsworthy, Domenico Biyanki, Susan Rothenberg, Gunther Forg, Brice Marden, Sigmar Polke, Robert Moskowitz, Jannis Kounellis, Anish Kapoor, Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, Francesco Clemente, David Salle, and Steven Sorman showed me how to enjoy making and looking at art works. In the Autumn of 1990 I had two fortunate opportunities. I could meet Anish Kapoor at his opening and heard how he is enjoying to Landscapes work. Another opportunity was Richard

1989 Deacon at my University. 1 asked him "Do


sculpture when you start the work?" He replied "Nothing, I start with any small detail, continue from there and the whole figure appears later". These opportunities were good keys for changing my thought, and out of that I started to prepare my graduate works.

For final assessment in Kyoto, 1 made two large etchings. Their sizes are both 180 X 80 cm. I had two points for these works. One is I did not want to

express any opinion, message and myself in my works, because if 1 push my thought or ideology through my

works too much then only the message arrives at the audience, and they will not be able to enjoy and feel the quality of my art work. That was to become a new starting point for my work.

Another point was: 1 smeii of the past did not like the i99i

j j ^ ^ j Etching: two times print from

w w \




Smell of the ground


Etching: aquatint, spitbite, softground on dyed papers

1 8 0 X 8 0 cm

thought i , i i < A < . plate, aquatint, spitbite,


After graduating from University, I stopped my work and went to Tokyo

every weekend. I had to pass the examination to be a monk. So I studied

about thought of Buddhism at a school in Tokyo and from my father.

Then I saw more art work and knew more artists from exhibitions in

Tokyo. In the Summer of 1991 I passed examination and came to

Canberra to study etching with my old teacher Jorg Schmeisser. The

first year however was taken up with English School, but in the spare

times 1 started to compose music again. I have composed 10 pieces of

music a year, expressing different feelings at different times.


Work, a / 1992 Work, b / 1992


4: At Canberra School of Art

In Canberra School of Art, I noticed the connection of my art work and of composing music. While composing music in 1992, I thought that I could use a similar method for composing prints as 1 used for composing music. If I use plates of the same format, I can combine various forms from various plates. It is like connecting various melodies in music. 1 used 25 X 25 cm plates and 50 X 50 cm plates. Each plate is like one phrase of music, and when they are printed together with other plates, new interesting images occur. This is the starting of much of my Canberra work.

When I make a plate, it is like writing down a phrase of music. I am using a computer for composing music. Usually I save an idea of phrase in the computer like notes, but 1 do not have a complete plan for the piece, I can not imagine what kind of music will develop. I decide whole image at the end of composing. 1 do not have one special aim or meaning of the music in mind. Similarly, 1 proceed with my etchings. Each of the plates is like a phrase in a composition, and just one element of the work, each with it's own texture and form. And these create their own atmosphere but printed together that may drastically change.

The material or the combination of materials which I use, determines the final form of the work. I do not have words for explaining my works. What I want to say is in my works, not in a text about them. It seems to me that composers do not have to "justify" or explain the meaning of their music.

The contemporary composer Steve Reich uses methods of African music in his "Drumming", but he is producing not African music. In his liner notes, he wrote how he composed "Drumming", and how each instruments worked. But he wrote nothing to explain "Drumming". He is interested in the method of African music uses those methods, and composes independent pieces.


close to his music. And that is by listening. My thoughts are similar in

regard to my own work. I can write something about the techniques of

the prints and about my self, but there is only one way to come close to

my art work: and that is by looking.

So what is important and interesting for me? 1 am interested in the

surface of etching and techniques, materials of printmaking, and in

what can be achieved through these techniques. These techniques give

definitely different textures from painting, drawing and other

techniques. Printmaking is not only a means for me. The tone of

aquatint has it own beauty, and there is no other line like one of a

drypoint. I want to use, to explore these material and technical

advantages. If I want to capture just any shape on a paper, drawing is

quickest way. If 1 want to describe a landscape or a person, there are

cameras. But I have a reason, why I am working with etching.

Techniques and materials of etching fascinate me. I think how tones of

aquatint or lines of drypoint work in my new pieces. Or more

accurately I create them for these tones and lines. If an audience

recognises and is captivated by the beauty of etching- then I have

achieved what 1 set out to do.

My main interest is not my own identity at this stage. I am more

interested in the world of art around me. I can not answer questions

about my identity, I wonder if there is something like one Japanese

Culture. Many things have been imported from China, Korea, European

countries and America. My cultural background is related to this

mixture of influences. 1 grew up in traditional Japanese surroundings

and my first language is Japanese. So, I am of course influenced much

by Japanese concepts and feeling. But I am more interested in European

and American Contemporary Arts than in Ukiyoe or Japanese Painting.

There maybe elements in my work which look Japanese to the non

Japanese public, but I do not think that is central to my work. 1 do not

emphasise nor do I avoid this.

Western Philosopher Ferdinand de Saussure said, "Language makes

man". It is impossible escaping from my language, but if I rely too much

on words, then my works can not cross the wall between languages and



connect with overseas literature.


5: Details, Techniques, Methods

In etching the various techniques give results which are distinctly

different from painting and drawing and other prints. So etching is not

only for making editions. There is special quality in etching, which can

never be replaced with other techniques.

About my method of etching. 1 prepared each plates, as an element

of my work, like notes of music. I decided to use two formats for

combining various plates. For smaller work the size was 25 X 25 cm. 1

choose the square format, so I could use plates upside down or right

side top or left side top. Each plates has 4 possibilities for printing.

Every images is an element, one part of the complete work. The

elements are not final pieces in their own right. They are just like one

phrase in a symphony. Playing some bars of only the first violin does

not give you a whole symphony.

My works are like phrases in a Musical Score. They can be exchanged or

replaced. Each change gives a new impression.


6: Works at Canberra School of Art


Work 1

Etching Two Plates Colour 25 X 25 cm

Feb. 93

This is my first colour work. First, I made the work as a one plate etching. However, it seemed too dry, so I added a whole red plate to be printed underneath the first plate. This made a strong combination.

I changed my way of etching from Black and White to Colour.

Work 2

Etching Two Plates Colour 25 X 25 cm

Feb. 93

This work was made at the same time as "Work 1", and developed from a one plate image to a two plate work.

I used scraping and drypoint as main techniques.


t r-^fj

Work 3

Etching Two Plates Colour

25 X 25 cm

Mar. 93

The first two works were not

planned as colour etching. Two

images in black were the aim.

In this work, 1 used two images from

different plates and combined them. 1

can say this is real first work of my

colour etching.

First, I made the red drypoint plate.

But I did not have an other plate to

combine with the red plate. After 1

made the red plate I made the circle

plate for "Work 4".

One week later I made a black plate,

it was not prepared for this red plate.

But 1 printed them together and I

found it works.

Work 4

Etching Two Plates Colour

25 X 25 cm

Mar. 93

In this work 1 found the circle to

be a useful element. I did not think

about the meaning of the circle, 1 was

just experimenting with the compass

cutter on the zinc plate. And 1 found

it makes quite beautiful drypoint



Work 6

Etching Two Plates Colour

25 X 25 cm

Mar. 93

In this work, first I was trying to

scrape a circular form on the top

plate. But while working 1 got a new

idea of the image. Like in this case, I

often change my image on the way.

These lines are made by scraping.

And the red which is underneath

appears to be on top.


Etching Two Plates Colour

25 X 25 cm

April. 93

This is one of my favourite

works. It is difficult to say why. But I

think this work is very successful in

combining two images.



Work 10

Etching Two Plates Colour 25 X 25 cm

April. 93

I think this is bright and Pop. I used the yellow circle plate on "Work 13" again.

The blue plate is made by scraping. I made the white tone by scraping. It is a harder way to make an image, however the scraped tone gives a beautiful texture. I am comfortable with the result.

Work 11

Etching Two Plates Colour 25 X 25 cm

May. 93

This is a composition of points and circles.

I am not interested in expressing something, but I am strongly interested in making a composition and really enjoy it.


Work 13 Etching Two Plates Colour

25 X 25 cm May. 93

I prepared this plate at the same time as "Work 11".

I wanted to make a somewhat sharp etching. Then I watched Video Drug, so traces of Video Drug appear on the work.

Work 14

Etching Two Plates Colour 25 X 25 cm

June. 93

I used the plate for "Work 8" again.


Work 15

Etching Two Plates Colour

25 X 25 cm

June. 93

I wanted to make a curious

etching. The feeling came from works

of Terry Winters. I think his work is

very curious, and interesting. I

looked much at his work, so there

maybe some influence from him.

Jorg Schmeisser said the red line left

side is very Japanese. I did not think

about the Japanese way of

composition, and I have not studied

about that. It is an interesting thing.


Work 16

Etching Two Plates Colour

25 X 25 cm

June. 93


Work 17 Etching Two Plates Colour

25 X 25 cm July. 93

This is a quiet print. I did not have this aim when the first plate was finished. But later, with feedback from the plate I think 1 wanted a quiet print.

1 think the deep colour of the etching ink supports the quiet impression. 1 n e e d e d a special deep tone of aquatint to achieve the quality of the work.

Work 18 Etching Two Plates Colour

25 X 25 cm July. 93


Work 19

Etching Two Plates Colour 25 X 25 cm

July. 93

I made this work with "Work 18" together. The work also has spitbite. I wanted to have some tension in the composition. So I put a red line on right side.

The feeling of this work is Russian Avant Garde.

A / - ;

Work 20

Etching Two Plates Colour 25 X 25 cm

Aug. 93

This work is the last of the small size works. 1 wanted to make this a simple and clear print.


Large Work 1

Etching Four Plates Colour

50 X 50 cm

Oct. 93

This is my first medium size

colour etching.

For this spitbite tone on a dark

blue plate 1 got the idea from the

etching work of Terry Winters

(See 7: Bibliography). 1 wanted to

use that pale tone of spitbite, and

I thought strong lines would

make contrast with the spitbite a

good. I made this image for

presenting these techniques.

First, it was a two plate colour

etching, but I wanted to have

another focus in my image, so I

added the small blue and red

plates later.

Large Work 3

Etching Three Plates Colour

50 X 50 cm

Jan. 94



Large Work 4 Proof Etching Three Plates Colour

50 X 50 cm Jan. 94

This is the first proof of "Large Work 4". I was not satisfied with the result. So 1 changed colours for "Large Work 4". Why? It was too dark and unclear for me. 1 expected more clarity form the work. However, sometimes people say "I like this proof". It is difficult for me to understand their feeling, but I think it often happens like this . That is an interesting point of making art.

Large Work 4 Etching Three Plates Colour

50 X 50 cm Jan. 94

I like this work better than the proof. It is more bright and clearer.

1 thought that the images of the elements were a bit curious and dark, so 1 tried to make a balance. Dark image and dark colour is too ordinary for me.


Large Work 5 Etching Three Plates Colour

50 X 50 cm Jan. 94

I printed this work with the red plate f r o m "Large Work 3", the orange plate f r o m "Large Work 1" and the dark blue plate from "Large Work 4". So this is a "recycle print" f r o m previous works.

I did not expect this work to go well. But now this is one of my f a v o u r i t e works. Unexpected c o m b i n a t i o n gave m e an interesting result.

Large Work 6 Etching Three Plates Colour

50 X 50 cm Jan. 94


Large Work 7 Proof

Etching Three Plates Colour

50 X 50 cm

Jan. 94

1 think this is not beautiful.

I put the work here for showing

that different colours give

different results of the same


Please compare with "large Work


Large Work 7

Etching Three Plates Colour

50 X 50 cm

Jan. 94

I am happy with this result. 1

like this. This atmosphere is

much more comfortable than in

the proof. The proof is too heavy

for me.


Introduction of "Music and Architecture" Iannis Xenakis

I have this book, but not in Australia it is in Japan. The English title should be the same as the Japanese title.

Thought of Ferdinand de Saussure

I heard there are no complete books which he wrote. But I read about his thought in books written by Keizaburo Maruyama, who is scholar of Saussure in Japan. The title of book was "Thought of Saussure". Saussure tried to find what is existence, and he thought everything is just words. Words build concepts. People recognise not reality but only concepts through words.

This thought is the starting point of my consideration. There is also a similar thought in Buddhism. Looking at a rose: There is the smell of the rose, there are the colours of the rose, there is the form of the rose, and if a person bites the rose, there is the taste of the rose, but there is not such a thing as a rose.

I am influenced a lot by thought of Kojin Karatani, who is Japanese a critic and wrote among others "The origin of Japanese modern literature".

Frank Stella:

He said that about his works on radio in 1964 "Only what can be seen there is there".

I would like to make such things.

Donald Sultan: "Quince, Sept. 7"

His compositions can be seen as a key to my own work. Although he draws just three lemons, his work has a very strong tension. I think this tension comes from his composition.

Terry Winters: "Novalis"

By looking at this colour etching, I found the kind of spitbite which I had not used, but which I found to be very suitable for my own new work. I love the strong images of Terry Winters and his use of etching technique.

Donald Sultan / Quince, Sept. 7, 1988

Screenprint 31.8X31.1 cm From "Donald Sultan A Print



Terry Winters / Novalis, 1989 Colour etching

94.6 X 67.9 cm From "Lisa Phillips Terry Winters" Published by Whitney Museum of

American Art

Looking by this work

Other Influences:

John Newman / Spin Cloud, 1990 Colour etching

76.2 X 61.0 cm From "Innovation in Collaborative Printmaking :

Kenneth Tyler 1963-1992" Published by Yokohama

Museum of Art

1 'f

Gunther Forg / Ohne Titel, 20. 11. 89 Acryl auf Canson Papier

264 X 149 cm

From "Gunther Forg Grosse Zeichnungen. The Large Drawings"


Influences. Music:

"DRUMMING" by Steve Reich ELEKTRA NONESUCH 979 170-2

"Octet. Music for a Large Ensemble. Violin Phase" by Steve Reich ECM Records 827 287-2


8: C V

Born 1967, Hakui, Ishikawa-ken Japan,


1987 - 1991






moved to Kyoto

studies at Kyoto Seika University Printmaking


In Spring, start making etching. May. Kyo-ten

Nov. Machida Universities Printmaking Exhibition

graduated Kyoto Seika University Bachelor course

moved to Canberra. English studies

Feb. travel to United States NY, Chicago, visit Tyler



9: Acknowledgments

My Post Graduate Diploma work was supported by

several institutions and individuals. 1 am grateful for

the guidance which I received while at Kyoto Seika

University, in particular the support of my teachers

Akira Kurosaki, Atuhiko Musashi, Takeshi Takahara

and Jorg Schmeisser who taught at Seika University in


In Canberra, 1 received a lots of helps for living and

studying. 1 am grateful for kindness of Donald

Fortescue and Anne, stuffs and students of

Printmaking Department, also for the opportunity

that 1 was able to study at Canberra School of Art

from Director David Williams, lots support from

Convenor of Post Graduate Course Nigel Lendon,

support for studying from my parents.