"I walk all alone in a cloud. I am in a white haze. There is only white air in front of my eyes. Visibility is quite limited. I don’t know where I am going. I don’t even know where I want to go. I expect nothing. I seek nothing. I simply accept what meets me in absolute solitude.

I walk. The world is obscure, yet sometimes luminous. In the obscurity – is there anything attracting me? In the radiance – what do I see? Can I see all? What do I feel? I do not know. It is a mystery. The world is influencing me all the same. And so I live. And so I draw."

© Tomoko Kitaoka, 2011

I expect nothing. I seek nothing. I accept what meets me.

Thoughts about monochrome by Tomoko Kitaoka

When an artistic work is limited to one single colour only, then I am impressed. But why does monochrome by Tomoko Kitaoka appeal to me in such a special way?

When Gerhard Merz covers an entire canvas with one plain and unmodulated colour, then he obviously wants to let this colour speak for itself. Such a concentration towards the essential is impressive. However, it leaves me somewhat cold.

Mark Rothko on the other hand wanted that colour should address itself directly to the heart of the spectator. And when he too sometimes restricted himself to one colour only, then he did not apply it as evenly as possible, as does Gerhard Merz, rather he used the effect which is achieved when paint is applied in slightly varying shades with relatively small brushstrokes.

However, I don’t think Tomoko Kitaoka has asked herself, how one could bring a colour to address itself directly to the heart of a spectator. Doesn’t she say in the poetic introduction to her dissertation for her Master 2 degree at the Sorbonne: “I expect nothing - I seek nothing - I accept what meets me.”

Tomoko Kitaoka started with totally different prerequisites than Merz and Rothko, Which led her to arrive at the result we now see in her piece monochrome. Because it is originally through batik, that she came into contact with painting, which she learned in its traditional, javanese form. And trough it, she came to know Indigo and evidently fell for it.

At the very beginning she will most likely have been quite astonished, when she saw a white cloth being lifted out of a nearly colourless liquid and darkening gradually in front of her eyes into a wonderfully deep blue.

In the course of her own experiments she will have inevitably realized, that a cloth of raw cotton, impregnated with indigo, looks much richer and livelier then the same blue on bleached cotton. She will soon have found out, why this is so, knowing how Tomoko Kitaoka pays great attention to anything that meets her eye:

Raw cotton, when it leaves the loom, and before it is cleaned and bleached for further industrial processing, contains, apart from the pure cotton fibre, also traces of other substances, which are part of the cotton plant; and other impurities, which got attached to the cotton fibre, starting from the collection of the plant till the eventual weaving of the cloth, all these impurities in the woven fabric, and the natural components of the cotton plant, don’t absorb the dye colour in the same degree as the cotton fibre itself. Consequently, and observed very closely, the colour of the cloth does not show an even, uniform blue, as on bleached cotton, rather this dye appears as so many gradations of the one blue in minuscule spots of colour, barely noticeable with the naked eye.

As was said, Tomoko Kitaoka is very observant and so she pays also attention to anything that might happen during the process of dyeing. And even if, as ill luck would have it, the dyeing should turn out unevenly, Tomoko Kitaoka would not necessarily see this as a disastrous mistake but as something that somehow is inherent in the very process of dyeing and which she might accept as a welcome enrichment of her cloth.

Even the rinsing and drying of the dyed cotton canvas is apparently for her of great interest: she does not search; she does not aim at anything, but anything that happens, does not pass unnoticed. Creased and crumpled, the dyed cloth is hanging on the washing line. She does not now see the actual indigo, but a multitude of graduations of one and the same indigo, depending on how the light hits all these folds and creases.

And so, again, she has found something that is vastly increasing the intensity of the indigo, compared to what the contemplating eye will perceive on a flat picture surface.

There can of course be no question of mounting Tomoko Kitaoka’s cotton canvas over a stretcher. Tomoko Kitaoka’s work is not a picture. Freely in space her cloth is floating. It represents nothing; but the indigo is presenting itself in all its complex beauty.

She wanted nothing more - and got therefore everything.

© Peter Wenger
in the catalog INDIGO, ed. Galerie Smend, Köln, 2013