It's all about the process


POSTED: Sunday, March 08, 2009

To the untrained eye, the works of local Japanese-American painters Mary Mitsuda and James Kuroda look quite distinct - Mitsuda's earth-toned drips of paint and Zen-like ink drawings hang in stark contrast to Kuroda's lively colors mixed with intriguing shapes. Yet the duo present a unified approach to the craft of abstract painting in “;Dialogues of Abstraction,”; showing at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii's Community Gallery through April 3.

“;Basically, we both destroy in order to create,”; Kuroda says. “;By that I mean that we cover things up - I use white to cover up what I've already painted. Mary uses black.”;

The artists' signatures also include scratching, sanding and etching through those layers of paint to allow evidence of the previous layer to surface.

“;You can see the process of the work in the finished product,”; says Christy Takamune, curator of the gallery. “;When you see their work side-by- side, it inspires awe that painters are still painting in that abstract way. Nowadays, more artists are doing realistic painting, so it's good to see that abstract artists are still around.”;

Mitsuda says that for both herself and Kuroda, “;and for probably 99.9 percent”; of fine abstract painters, “;the process is IT. It's about that building and taking away.”;

This may confuse goal-oriented folk, but the artists actually see little value in a project that would be simply about “;start-to-finish.”;

Rather, “;it's about the mastery of control and accidents, of being in tune with the process so that you can flow along with it,”; Mitsuda says.

When she produces her drip paintings, for instance, Mitsuda literally drops paint onto the canvas and allows it to drip where it may. She creates a whole painting by “;incorporating all of it - the accidents, the flow, the drip. I'm pulled along by the process, and it's truly like having a dialogue with the material. I create something, and it's like, 'Oh!' and I respond with something else.”;

Working in such an open format, the painters aren't always sure where the “;conversation”; will take them. Mitsuda says the medium dictates how open-ended the process can be. When she works in ink, for example, “;it's just a few strokes, so you know going into it what the conversation is all about.”;

But both artists agree that in painting, the dialogue can go on and on.

“;A painting is never complete. It's only complete when it's sold or it leaves my studio,”; Kuroda says. “;If not, I can keep going.”;

Mitsuda says she takes photos of her “;finished”; work, knowing that if it sticks around her studio, “;it could be many paintings. Some of my work has been photographed two or three times.”;

The Japanese Cultural Center is located at 2454 S. Beretania St. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays, and admission is free. Call 945-7633 or visit