Briefly describe the work you do.
As a child, I learned Japanese calligraphy at school. When I was growing up, I watched my father, a calligrapher, practicing and saw how he approached his work. We talked about the meaning behind each proverb he was writing or about his practice itself. We still do. He continues to open up the gate for me to understand the world of Japanese calligraphy. Together with Sumi-e (Japanese ink painting), Japanese calligraphy has become an activity that immediately connects me to my foundation as an individual and artist.
In my current series of work, I use this foundation as a basis for exploring the relationship between written language and visual images in both virtual and physical spaces. For painting, I start by searching for characters that embody a phrase or word expressing a particular theme. I draw the phrase in one layer and add another layer that explores possible nuances of the phrase, which creates a sense of space. I prefer paper as my surface, for the immediacy and finality with which it actively drinks up the ink. Finally, I add other elements that travel through the space, introducing more nuance, supporting the ideas, and making the space more complex or contradictory.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I was grown up in a family that cherish original and do-it-yourself. Also growing up in my native country, Japan, allowed me to develop intricate and intentional design skills. Having traveled extensively around the world, I am digesting all the cultures that I have encountered and proposing new hybrid cultures visually and conceptually.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
Although my ideas and inspirations come from interactions with other people and their cultures, for the most part, my studio practice is a solitary experience.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I enjoy sharing various aspects of cultural significance through my work.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
My main production occurs during summer. I teach at a university and get busy during semesters, so during academic year, I develop future concepts and reflect on what I have created in the previous summer.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
My core interests have been the same, but medium has been changing in order to better serve my concept.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
My family and Japanese culture that cherish other cultures and the state of search for new perspectives.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I would still choose a teacher. It is such a rewording job. I would also enjoy being a multilingual translator and an apple picker.
Born and raised in Japan, Nishiki Sugawara-Beda immigrated to the US as a young adult. She creates art works that deals with the examination of various cultures. Her work has been presented in solo exhibitions as well as numerous group shows, at national and international level. She has been shortlisted for various art competitions, including the Door Prize (Bristol, England), Paint Like You Mean It (Edinburgh, Scotland), ArtGemini Prize (London, England), and 7th National Juried Exhibition at Prince Street Gallery (New York). Her work has been published in the 87th issue of New American Paintings, Fresh Paint Magazine, and Expose Art Magazine: Special Edition. She graduated from Portland State University with a BA, and earned her MFA in Painting at the Indiana University. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Idaho.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.