Japanese Painting Lesson


In Japanese painting, artists use pigments from nature, washi(Japanese paper) and haku(gold or silver leaf) along with other materials and techniques. The main idea is usually about the exploration of spirit found in nature, but modern scenes can also be found.

1.First lesson, stretch the paper on board, use watercolour or gouache to paint (Oil painting is no good because of the thickness)

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2.Second week, use washi to soften or strengthen the image, with only paints, the whole body could be too bright and lacks depth, using other materials to support the balance of the image seems to be important in Japanese painting.

Use of Washi: the washi that we used is named ‘Tengucho-shi’, cow skin glue were used to apply them on the images

Use of Haku: it was my first time to use golden and silver leaves, fragile things; but it has a quality to brighten the whole image

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3. Third Lesson, using Sulfur to create images. I’ve never relate Sulfur(with fungicide) with art practice, but it actually creates amazing effect on images. Sulfur can only react on haku(probably other metal as well) under 80 degrees temp, the reaction of time decides the colour that haku is going to be in the end

1-2 seconds →red / 2-4 seconds →blue/ >5 seconds→black or grey




4. Fourth lesson, the finishing work. take the masking tape off, as well as adding lines to enrich the image.

The final images.


After making the four images, we were asked to do a collage out of them. The collage has to contain an element from Choju Giga(The earliest comic in Japanese history).It’s a task more difficult than I thought, in terms of balancing the colours and composition, which is deeply referring to Japanese traditional aesthetics. The whole process took three lessons to complete.


The third part was to transfer our collage into a real Japanese painting. We learnt about pigments in this lesson, the traditional pigments are made from natural stones like Malachite(green), Lapis Lazuli(ultramarine) or Orpiment(yellow)

Although in modern Japanese painting, because of the high price, artificial pigments are widely used. In Japanese painting, the white colour has to be painted first, silver leaves are used underneath the white to make it shine. The white pigment comes from powdered calcium carbonate.

The painting hasn’t been finished yet due to the difference of exchange term time.


      Explore and paint!


      I was surprised to find that the system of things here is quite similar to Chelsea’s, with no project or brief for the third year. Tutors are in school three days a week, crit is held every month, we have to manage our own time to do projects.

      As new concepts hasn’t come to me yet, I decided to go around the forest behind school to get some inspirations. In UK, I usually get inspiration from my old work or from other artists’ concepts; but here, the ideas comes from the view I see, with less thoughts about the content behind it, comparing to the past, the work that I’m going to make is more straight forward and simple, probably more about the vision than content.

      I haven’t done a ‘proper painting’ since the university, as what I focused is the conceptual side of a work; picking up the painting brush again became difficult for me, I would hesitate how to make a straight line or how to use colours technically. But these difficulties are great leisure, doing a good painting  is never an easy thing since there is no standard for the word ‘good’. I kept questioning myself ‘ is this going to be a good painting? Does it have to be good?’ during the process of painting, self-judgement and finding an answer for myself is the aim of make these paintings, what I lack now is what I’m going to reinforce in the future. Thus, these paintings are not about the subject or colour, but my exploration and question of ‘what to paint’.

      Japanese Paper(Washi) Making Class

      PART 1

      In the elective lessons of Seika, Japanese paper making interests me the most, as the traditional paper making course is not easy to find in Western countries. Paper comes from nature, making paper can be viewed as a process of communication with nature as well.

      1.In our first lesson, recycling carbon paper were used. They were divided according to colour, so there won’t be a dirty colour for the outcome

      2.Carbons were put in a pulper with water and became a paste shape

      3.Put the paste in a paper making mold floating on water.

      4.Dry the extra water


      A piece of carbon paper is done! The chips of other colours faints in the carbon’s colour. 

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      PART 2

      In common sense, paper is flat, so I was very fond of making 3D paper sculpture. We used plaster to cast our hand first, then put the paper into plaster mode.

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      PART 3

      The material for most Japanese paper making-Kozo, English name is mulberry

      The material for most Japanese paper making-Kozo, English name is mulberry

      In advanced lesson, we were taught to make coloured paper. Instead of painting with colours on the paper, paper can be made with colours initially.

      -Prepare Kozo, which is mulberry in English, dye it with pigment

      -Dry out the extra colours to get all the colour seep into Kozo (long long process)

      -Have a layer of original Kozo, a layer of glue(made from taro), and the coloured layer

      The two layers of a paper

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      The flow of concepts – table trace

      1. Inspired by Dieter Roth, I found table as a really important object to document artist’s life, thus I picked my table in the studio to make a start. I used a A1 tracing paper to trace all the marks left on this table, including knife cuts, paint splash, graffiti…though these are not marks from me, they are interesting for me to see as artistic vestige.

      my table


      process of tracing

      finished painting


      Then I traced a dining table from school canteen, with knife cuts left on like line drawings. Chinese ink is used instead of oil as the straight lines may look more fluent, though it eventually doesn’t work very well on the canvas.

      the dining table in canteen

      2. After these two paintings were made, I received a few comments from my friends, they assumed these are loose abstract paintings. Inversely, the marks were traced bit by bit with tension. The contradiction between the surface and actual painting process kind of became the second concept of them.

      3. Then I started thinking about the term of ‘value’. What is the value of a piece of artwork? Is it the cost of material? Or is it the effort that you put in? Or does it depends on how great your idea is? These questions can cause too many debates, so I am going to keep it simple.

      For me, the act of translating random marks on a table raises the value of the marks themselves. They used to be unnoticed, almost invisible objects in this world, by putting them through the medium of painting and be shown in the gallery, I would like viewers to discover the beauty of the table marks as what they are. I asked myself ‘Does the medium changed the value of art?’ Perhaps it could be referred to Duchamp’s Fountain in the museum, though Duchamp tried to address ‘What is art?’

      4. For my exhibition, I planed to show the first table trace I made with it being framed and attached to four legs to be a table, and it would be shown with the original table, I intended to question ‘Which has more value as a piece of art? Is it the objecthood of the original table? Or is it the replication of the object through a medium?’. My tutor Jeff questioned me if it is necessary to do that, it made me realize the frame is not necessary; and the second painting is more powerful as the pictorial elements were reduced to address the main concept.

      5. What is more interesting to show in the exhibition? I guess it’s the works that gain more questions and debates from the spectators. I found the piece of painting quite plain to show as a piece of painting, that’s where the idea of ‘table painting’ come from.

      I made this table in the workshop (84x60x80cm), and found it quite strange with a canvas attached to the wooden legs. So I wrapped the table legs with canvas to enable the table itself be part of the ‘painting’.


      Table White from Oct.29th to Nov.4th

      As the Table White project started last week, the table has finished its journey for one week in the first MA studio from Oct 29th to Nov.5th, it was taken care by MA student Sutin Hong.

      I was very very surprised to see the changes on it this week, as four panels were added to the sides, the supporting stick across the middle has been chopped off. I could almost not recognize it’s the table I made!

      table White in MA studio


      So I asked Sutin about the changes she made, she replied:

      “….because I make sculptures, I wanted to plant a tree in the middle…”

      She then drew me this sculpture plan: the table is put in a reversed way, four panels are added for keeping earth for planting, as well as the chopped off stick. She told me she give up the idea eventually since the “table pot” is not steady enough to hold the tree upright and found something else to plant in.

      Sutin’s drawing for her planting sculpture

      After all, this starting point is very inspiring for me, especially the things happened out of my expectation. As I told people to ‘do whatever you want to this table’ and  expected them to use the table as a tool, but Sutin actually used it as part of her work in process, which gives the table more content as a background and enables it to gain more variation in short term.


      Resin and Preservation of Instant

      Resin is a material that I always wanted to try with, because of its transparency and stillness. I got one pot from the school shop and followed the basic resin tutorial on YouTube.

      The following is my experiment piece, one step to mention is the mistake that I made while inserting the object into resin. As I charged the time wrongly, I couldn’t fit the whole flower in, thus I used a stick to insert petals in while it’s concreting, which resulted in cracks for the final outcome.

      The intention behind this practice is the idea of preservation of instant moments or things happened. The first object that I chose is a flower that I received on my birthday on Oct.19th, it started to droop after few days and would eventually end its ‘life’, by preserving it in resin, the time of this flower stops on that day.

      * An interesting thing to mention is: the flower went to droop faster after being put in resin, which is right against my original intention.

      The flower received on Oct.19th

      The problem of air bubbles was solved by putting resin into warm water


      Following the same concept, I took some water from the Thames river at 11:45 am on Nov.2nd, therefore it is the amount of water that you can never find anywhere else. The act of keeping ordinary, almost non-significant objects in resin, raises the value and content of those objects. The object itself here is less important than the process and method of preservation.

      Water from Thames on Nov.2nd


      Using a tube to infuse the river water into resin

      The following photos are final output of resins

      A flower received on my 21st birthday, Oct.19th

      A flower received on my 21st birthday, Oct.19th

      A flower received on my 21st birthday, Oct.19th

      A flower received on my 21st birthday, Oct.19th

      10ml water from Thames River under Vauxhall Bridge on 11:45 A.M of Nov.2nd


      10ml water from Thames River under Vauxhall Bridge on 11:45 A.M of Nov.2nd

      10ml water from Thames River under Vauxhall Bridge on 11:45 A.M of Nov.2nd










      The Birth of Table White—Statement of plan

      Last year, I did many practice related to time, and there is always a time-based element in most of my work. Following my last concept of ‘table as the witness of memories’, I planed to use table as a medium to document the time I will spend in Chelsea, then I realized my own time may not get resonate responds from viewers since they are personal. Susan Hiller’s piece Delicated to the Unknown Artists inspired me again, the common memory/ time shared by a whole class, even whole school can receive more reflected views in the future. Therefore I decided to pass this table around the studios in Chelsea to enable people to recognize it all. Here,  table leads the project to carry on, I try to position it as a viewer, but not an object in the studio, the difference in interpretation about this object may leads to a new result.

      Traditional interpretation for the role of table: object, still(in one place), scratch or paint left on due to human activities

      ↓ I plan to change it in this way

      New interpretation for the role of table: witness, movable(around the school), scratch or paint left = human activities(may get to know what happened)

      The beginning of this plan is rather simple, I went to the workshop to get this table done(Thanks for the help from John!) and painted it in purely white. It meant to show the table as a new born baby, as the time go by, it will eventually “receive” memories and marks from various people, and will “grow” into another appearance.


      Statement of Plan:

      -Time: at least three months, it would be interesting to carry it for next three years

      -The table will stay in a studio for one week, and move to the next

      -There will be no order when choosing the studio, I picked the first one because it’s close to where I was

      -Documentation form: photos at a fixed composition, feedback from the person who used it

      (The composition of photo)(Taken in BG03)

      Consider about tables!

      This idea suddenly came into my head while I was reading a book by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong called Art as Therapy, this photo↓ taken by Jessica Todd Harper is shows a family under agony, the smiling face of their child forms huge contrast with the cold air and anxious gap between the two. The woman lays her arms on a dinner table to support her despair, two wine cups on the table indicate this argument begins during/right after the meal. The man relies his body upon the kitchen table, looking anxiously at the woman.

      “The Agony in the Kitchen”

      As I loved this photo so much, I looked up other works by Harper that considers family scenes. This Christmas photo is from her book called Interior Exposure, which is a typical happy Christmas family picture, here, the table occupied the majority of space with objects fully laid on.

      From Interior Exposure

      What interests me in Harper’s photos is not the emotional figures,  but the role play of objects. As in the first photo, separated tables on both sides indicate the broken family; on the other hand, the table in second one gather all the people in union. Objects here could convey a humanized message that reflect the emotion, the situation and the atmosphere of the scene.

      Then I started considering about tables in our lives as witnesses to many memories. We have family meeting on table, we talk about business on table, we brainstorm ideas on table, we love on table, we break on table……well, it’s surprising to find out most of my time is actually spent on tables.

      So I did a drawing with tables that may appear in your life, they seems like geometrical shapes, since I want to indicate the variety through shape and size. For example, Business Lunch on left upper corner is one of those tables that you can see at Starbucks, with a man in suits eating sandwich alone. Or New Year’s Union in the centre, which indicates a big big family meal at New Year with probably 15 members around the table.


      Two more drawings I made following the similar concept, which was inspired by the tables in our school. The purely white one is named First Year, it is the table in our studio; the message is the brand new beginning of our uni life, unfamiliar with the environment and haven’t started any work yet. In contrast, the Third Year is a table I saw in seminar room filled with paints; the richness of materials on that table displays the time and memories it has been through. The colours is almost like what students gained from Chelsea after three years, if I consider the tables in this way, even the objects become emotional.

      First Year

      Third Year


      Mind Map & Photographic Experiment

      Since the paintings I made last week seems to be unsatisfying, I restart to think about the intention and own interest behind my work. The three key things are Process/Time based, Memories/Forgotten things and Painting. During my foundation last year, I basically made time based, systematic works referring to artists like Susan Hiller and On Kawara, another reason is the joy of seeing transformation and changes happened through process.  Memories and forgotten things are amusing for me due my own experience of studying in UK and traveling around the world, behind my practice, there is always an element of documentation or recording certain things, sometimes the time itself, probably my intention is  encouraging people to memorize the past or to cherish the present. Another subject I’m keen on is Painting, and I’ve done some practice in the expanded field before. Amazed by Gerhald Richter’s paintings, especially his painted photos which re-create information by over-painting various parts. This is a field that I want to experiment in the future.


      Mind Map

      Two ideas about the term Memory&Documentation

      ①Memory Puzzle: I had an idea of re-organizing visual impressions to recall your memory, which is a development from my paintings last week featuring London’s representative scenes. Samples are like the first photos below, the wiped off arrow remind you of roads, the seagull remind you of Thames River… it is almost like a puzzle that you can interact with, spectator is the one to piece those clues together to reform an image in their mind; I was inspired by pointillism’s approach of the viewer collecting information (colours) by themselves to blend in their own eyes. Also, I read a bit about Frances A Yates’s Art of Memory but didn’t quite get it.

      ②Collection of things usually recall people’s certain memories about specific things, like what Susan Hiller collected in Delicated to the Unknown Artists, her collection arises from personal memory to cultural memory of UK. In another way, not only old, vintage things can achieve this, items with symbolic meanings may also do. For example, apple’s symbolism of forbidden or skull’s representation of death.

      The important thing after all in this project, is to find the subject to connect the documentation and memories. In the previous research, I intended to use my own experience of exploring London, but I found it too narrow with low potential in the end, since personal memory can’t get consonance and respond from audience, in my own point of view, it’s quite essential to make art that can be reflected by viewers.

      First Six photos are memory puzzles of London; last three are overlaying images of buildings at river side, for both modern and old architecture, it is joining times together.