DUBAI: Sense of Women, which takes place from March 28 to April 20 this year, is an unprecedented event for Dubai. The exhibition is offered by the MIA Art Collection foundation dedicated to female art, in partnership with Arab News and its international editions. A few days before the opening, Japanese artist Mari Ito, born in Tokyo and now living in Barcelona, discussed the inspiration behind the exhibition. Through her work, Ito plunges us into her particular universe, inspired by Asia and traditional Japanese works such as nihonga paintings, and by Spain through its yellowish light — a color palette present in most of her canvases.
The discovery of a city with an “intense” contrast between light and shadow
Ito draws her inspiration from her daily life in Barcelona, including the weather and buildings inspired by modernism. “I left Tokyo where I finished the first part of my studies to try to discover other cultures. Europe, having a long history with art, has been a favorite destination. And then Barcelona was chosen following a recommendation from my gallery owner — a choice that I welcome today, this city being a nest of inspiration for artists,” she said. “It was here that I felt an intense contrast between light and shadow. The more yellowish light, typical of Spain, gave me a new perception of art that I still had not taken into account,” she added.
Ito tries to represent the search for volume and proportions in her work. “Where I come from, art is flattened, in stark contrast to European art with full volume. I mix the two techniques; the traditional one in my country, called ‘nihonga painting,’ while incorporating an in-depth background inspired by these lights discovered in Spain,” she said.
Mari Ito’s work plunges us into her particular imagination, making us enter her dreamlike universes. But something alerts us: The expression of these apparent flowers. They evoke the seeds of human desire, with its blend of happiness, sorrow and anger. “The origin of human desire is invisible, but everyone feels it. Therefore, the baby can cry and make it known that he is hungry, and if he is happy, he can laugh because he wants to laugh … so my flower has a baby face, and that is why there is peace and war. Humans always have anger and joy,” Ito said. Therefore, she questions the very origins of desire “which arise unconsciously and form the character of the person.”
Sense of Women, a platform that unleashes imagination and emotion
“In the world of art, I feel very free. Because of that, I feel the possibility of unleashing my imagination and my emotions. Through my works, I want to present my world and my thoughts to the public. I want to offer it the possibility of discovering them in order to think and feel something new,” said Ito. “And this freedom, I felt it through the opportunity to exhibit in this virtual museum dedicated to art as seen by women,” she added.
Ito says: “2020 has been a very difficult year for the whole world, and we have changed our habits. We were sort of locked in, and this exhibition has shown that there are alternative ways to get out of this. We could move around thanks to virtual art, at home or elsewhere. Artists can and want to do it!”
Through her self-described positive nature, Ito offers hope in challenging times through her work. “The challenge for artists after 2020 is that we must always be aware of the dual format of our exhibitions, both virtual and real. It’s also proof that you should never give up,” she said.