Walk into Sandpiper Gallery off busy North 30th Street, in Tacoma’s Old Town, and you’re struck by the serenity. Up right now is a show by three local sumi-e artists – Selinda Sheridan, Lois Yoshida and Fumiko Kimura – that takes sumi-e out of the brush and into the world of three dimensional texture and shape, but retaining its essential tranquility.
“Metamorphosis” is like sumi-plus. Traditionally, sumi-e consists of black charcoal ink sweeps over paper, occasionally with watercolors added. For the last few decades, though, American sumi artists have been pushing the genre, taking it into the abstract, the expressionist, the lush. With Yoshida, Sheridan and Kimura, though, it’s soaring into sculpture and collage.
Sheridan is the sculptor. Her series of six delicately thin bowls are made of paper-mache and recycled sumi paintings, either creamy pale or swirling with abstract black ink into a dove or flower painted deep inside. They’re as shapely as seed pods, and as fragile. Behind are the “assemblages” – hangings made of strung-together sumi paintings glued to teabag labels, coating cylinders or simply crushed into balls, like black-and-white meteors. It’s a delicacy of structure that perfectly echoes the minimalist delicacy of the original brushstrokes.
Lois Yoshida’s collages combine sumi strokes with washi and found paper with a subtle, balanced composition. “Bamboo Summer” peers close into turquoise and lime stripes of bamboo, the paper giving a plant-like texture. “Red Balls” floats circular red washi etched with curves over a landscape of sage-green and black paper strokes, laid over a smooth curve of white paint.
Fumiko Kimura, meanwhile, goes the furthest in combining sumi with unusual, organic materials. Using teabag paper, dried bamboo, washi shells and other materials she creates intriguing, poignant collages. “Heavenly Play” somehow conveys a sparkling idea of diving music through a delicate trail of tiny seashells and a sculpted paper lute. “Transformation” uses Mt. St. Helens ash as an ethereal shading, dusted onto a fragile leaf and thick white sausage casing paper. “Trapped in Tea Bag” hides a butterfly behind creamy-beige teabag paper, twisted and roughened into a transparent cage.
“Metamorphosis” seems the ideal marriage between the elegance of sumi paint and the unique roughness of handmade paper or plants, a very Japanese blend between the natural and the refined.
“Metamorphosis” is open noon-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday through May 14 at Sandpiper Gallery, 2221 N. 30th St., Tacoma. 253-627-6667