David Kiyabu - Sculptor

Matt Tuohy
By Matt Tuohy
Friday - September 19, 2008
| Del.icio.us
Mantis. Many of Kiyabu’s works are inspired by agriculture or fishing.

 

AUTOFOCUS

David Kiyabu enjoys sculpting and carving with marble because it’s subtractive - he has to take material off to make something out of each chunk of rock.

“It’s kind of like an old medium, and the stone is warm,” he describes. “You take off. Most mediums are additive, like bronze and clay and painting. But with marble you start with a block and go backwards.”

Kiyabu graduated with a bachelor of arts from UH-Manoa, working with metal. However, he felt the need to spread his wings and talents further by working with marble.

After assisting local sculptor Sean Browne, Kiyabu was inspired to start working with the medium himself. He made the trip to Pietra Santo, Italy, several times, spending his summers learning from the “maestros” of the craft as best he could.

Black Barb. Many of Kiyabu’s works are inspired by agriculture or fishing

“It’s a tiny art town in Tuscany,” he says. “I kind of learned the old school way, but I’ve learned to go a little bit faster now, thanks to technology.

“That was probably the best place to learn,” he adds.“The first summer I did mainly every
thing by hand. Then the next summer I learned about the tools and the stone itself.” He notes a lot of patience is involved when working with marble, since once a mark or a crack is made, it’s there forever.

One of the signature aspects of Kiyabu’s work is the finished product’s waxy surface. “It’s a warm glow, not a high polished finish, like a toilet,” he laughs. “Not where you take the buffing wheel and buff it out to where it’s glass.” He called this a matte finish, where the marble’s surfaces look more smooth than shiny.

Mantis #2. Many of Kiyabu’s works are inspired by agriculture or fishing

Kiyabu draws his inspiration from his family heritage, “which was agriculture and fishing,” he says.“I do a lot of seed and sea forms.” He described some of his works as more abstract, but how he tries to shape them into hooks and seed-shaped figures.

Aside from his art, Kiyabu spends his regular working day at Bishop Museum as a metal worker. “I fabricate mounts for the artifacts,” he says. “It’s a little bit more specific than welding gates and fences and stuff.”

Several of Kiyabu’s pieces are on display at the Bethel Street Gallery in Chinatown, the Fine Arts Associates gallery and in the occasional exhibition.

 

THELOCALCANVAS

Rain Vessels. Many of Kiyabu’s works are inspired by agriculture or fishing

Honolulu Academy of Arts is having a special exhibition, maybe the first of its kind, on Modern Japanese Literati - paintings by the intellectual class of people in Japan from the Late Edo period to the 20th century.

The collection of Seattle-based Terry Welch is comprised of about 83 pieces by 63 artists. He began collecting the pieces in Japan while studying there in the ‘70s. “I’m a landscape designer, so I was drawn to landscape painting,” he says. “My early training happened in Japan, and I was just so inspired by these ideas and the devotion of the literati of capturing nature, and wanting to express it in such individualistic ways.”

This may be the first exhibition of literati art from the Late Edo era to the 20th century

The art itself looks like classic Japanese art depicting cranes and other notable objects from the region. But given a few moments, the rawness and emotion of each brush stroke comes out. “It’s not wall art,” says one of the museum’s curators, Shawn Eichman. “It is art created to be an intimate experience.”

Though there is a lot of detail, what is missing is a wide range of colors to convey emotion or thought, like red for passion or anger. “(The literati) tried to distinguish themselves from professionalism and professional artists,” says guest curator Michiyo Morioka. “So, they avoided ostentatious display of skill and decorative colors.

“The emphasis is on calligraphy brushwork, so you can follow the artist’s hand. They believed that the way you moved your brush really expressed your character, your inner character.”

Many of the paintings combine nature and wildlife with poetry, which is meant to accentuate certain aspects of each work. All of the poetry is written in calligraphy on the canvases themselves, and have been translated.

This may be the first exhibition of literati art from the Late Edo era to the 20th century

“When you understand what they’re saying in the writings, it really makes the understanding of the painting much more profound,” says Morioka. “I mean, you can appreciate thinking on a visual level, of course. But when you know what they’re saying, it’s much more meaningful, too.”

Many of the pieces are on scrolls or screen doors, which was done on purpose. “The original intention is different than Western painting,” says Eichman. “None of these works would be hung on a wall and left there for years. They were meant as a means of communication and dialogue - only brought out for special occasions, shared with a particular group of friends and then rolled up and put away again.” Welch noted this also helped the preservation process, and the paintings are still sensitive to the elements.

The works will be on display during regular museum hours until Nov. 9. For more information on Welch or the art, call 532-8700 or visit www.honoluluacademy.org.

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