Winter 2007 Fellow
“My reason to paint on glass comes from a simple and child-like wonder: What if I could paint in the air, and preserve it somehow?”
By placing her paintings on glass, Atsuko Tajima, a Winter 2007 Resident Fellow at the Creative Glass Center of America, did find a way to paint in air. As a consequence her paintings have a spatial presence and protean temporal quality which transcends the static two dimensions of traditional painting.
Used as early as the 4th century BCE, reverse painting on glass is valued for the way it captures light. The technique became more sophisticated in 13th century Italy and in the 17thcentury, metal foil added radiance especially suited to religious images. In the 18th century, China exported many reverse glass paintings, mostly of secular subjects, to Europe and in the following century reverse glass painting became a popular hobby for American women.
None of the long history of reverse glass painting directly influenced Tajima, who spontaneously made her first painting on glass at the age of three. However, perhaps the qualities which made hinterglas (the German term) painting fascinating to so many generations did. It is a provocative coincidence that Tajima mentions Wassily Kandinsky’s color and compositions as influences on her work, even though she was not aware that the man credited with making the first abstract painting had earlier made hinterglas paintings in emulation of the glowing colorful icons of his Russian childhood.
There are two main technical hurdles to painting on glass. The first is adhering the paint — Tajima uses mostly acrylics — to a hard polished surface. Tajima stabilizes the surface with acrylic medium. Occasionally she sandblasts to add more tooth. The second problem is that what in a traditional painting is executed last: the highlights and surfaces which appear it the visual forefront of the painting, must be executed first. The painter then works back, eventually into the background, covering what has been done and, thus, eliminating the option of altering or correcting it later on.
By using gold leaf, either in the foreground, or behind a shadowed shape, Tajima injects light into different levels of her painting. Gold refracts light through the glass and gives forms life.
Tajima’s technical innovation in reverse glass painting is slumping the glass sheet into a relief form which enhances the painting. She makes molds or slumps forms into shaped sand. The equipment at WheatonArts allowed her to exercise greater control in manipulating sheets of glass. Utilizing both the dimensional surface and reflective gold, her paintings appear to move and to change with the viewer’s movements.
At WheatonArts, Tajima worked on several series which she planned to exhibit together in a fifty-foot horizontal band at a show scheduled for the Banana Factory in May, 2007; however, her over-arching wish is to make work for public settings like hospitals where it will “give back to the community.”
She says, “My motivation for making art has changed a lot in the last couple of months.” She’s recently experienced loss and illness in those near to her and has become increasingly committed to “art as a tool of healing. It’s not going to heal immediately but it has some kind of mild way of adjusting our spirit,” She believes. “As I grow older (she’s 42), I’m more interested in showing work to community people than gallery people.” She says that she would feel her art is successful if it could give just one person the will to live.