Trees are painted consistently in Rieko Hidaka’s works. The trunks, branches, leaves, flower buds and infinite expanse of the sky beyond them are painted repeatedly in various compositions, and they lead viewer’s eyes into other dimension. The artist looks up to the actual trees and starts to draw on a piece of paper with a size that fits on a drawing board. Later, or at the same time, she paints on a larger hemp paper using Japanese paint in the same composition.
Although the trees seem to be depicted minutely in details, a closer look will reveal the sharp presence of minimal shades of the trunks formed with roughly scraped paint in places and bold, abstract lines of the branches. The artist who gazed at the trees and the sky for over 25 years, started to be aware of the “space” by experiencing the change in her perspective from looking at the trees horizontally to raising her eyes directly from underneath. She has been practicing many approaches over the method of capturing the space and distance in her series or works such as “Looking up the Trees”, “From the Space of Trees” and “Distance from the Sky”.
An art critic, Keiji Nakamura remarks as follows; “Depicted in such overwhelming detail, the trees draw the viewer in, like it or not. We feel compelled to gaze in depth, to seek out meanings in them, though none respond nor offer any clues. (…) The inherent contradiction of rendering undistinguished trees so exactingly yet with no attempt to put across any idea, the tenuous unifying hold that borders on insanity – call it ‘pictomania’ – this underlying energy is the very thing that makes the artworks.”(Keiji Nakamura ‘Arbres Fatals’, North Museum of Art Solo Exhibition catalogue, RIEKO HIDAKA “TREES” p. 4, published by Tomio Koyama Gallery, Translated by Alfred Birnbaum)
By using vitality of trees, the branches are running across over the white picture plane, capturing the viewers’ eyes and suggesting to perceive the space in the paintings in different way.
The exhibition fill feature Hidaka’s new works from her recent series, “Distance from the Sky”. She sets her point of sight higher than usual in order to paint crapemyntle tree, which has been her motif in recent years, getting closer to the sky and painting them in a larger scale than the actual trees.
As she notes “Tree branches allow me to measure space. They are calibrations that divide space.” (Rieko Hidaka “Notes on Distance from the Sky”, gFAL, published by Musashino Art University, 2008, Translated by Charles Worthen), the pure white space that spreads in between the wide branches on a picture plane evokes the distance that the artist describes, ”The more I look, the clearer unfathomable distance becomes”. As “The feeling of distance I perceive and want to record on the picture plane differs from that of traditional aerial-perspective representation”, the artist captures only the tree branches and leaves that can be seen with her own eyes. She omits the expressions on the surface of the trees and focuses on the elements she chooses.
“In order to make real may awareness of the imponderable and immeasurable, I will keep looking up into branches and portraying what I see. I paint trees to come closer, even if only slightly, to that unfathomable sky.”