Black and white flowers

Office worker rejects daily grind for ink paintings By


Anyone previously overawed by the world of sumi-e (Japanese ink painting) will get a totally different impression once they see the works of Hiroko Hiroki.

This weekend is the last chance to see the artist’s first exhibition, titled “Hana” a series of black-and-white sumi-e comprised of the kanji character for hana (flower). Each of the paintings resemble garden flowers such as peonies and morning-glories.

“The art of sumi-e often strikes people as ‘difficult.’ But I want to draw something easier to understand and touch people’s hearts,” Hiroki said recently in her Tokyo atelier.

Hiroki hopes anyone who comes into contact with her art will become less tense, a desire that comes from having worked as an office worker for more than 20 years.

When overtime and the stress of work led her to reassess her life and eventually quit her job, Hiroki began to attend a variety of art exhibitions, including oil paintings, nihonga and woodcut prints, which inspired her own sumi-e, something which she started to learn a few months before quitting her job.

“I couldn’t create anything like this when I was in my 20s or 30s. Now I can because I have stored up enough energy and experience,” Hiroki said.

Since Chinese characters are hieroglyphic, each one’s shape represents its meaning. Hiroki said she wants to continue imagining what a character originally looked like and to draw its shape.

“Hana” takes place at Gallery You, 112-5 Yaraicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo (tel. [03] 3266-1955) through Dec. 16. The gallery is open midday-6 p.m. (till 5 p.m. on Dec. 16). Admission is free.

Gallery You is a 1-minute walk from Kagurazaka Station’s Kagurazaka Exit on the Tozai Subway Line, a 7-minute walk from Ushigome Kagurazaka Station on the Toei Oedo Subway Line or a 20-minute walk from Idabashi Station on the Toei Oedo, Yurakucho, Tozai and Nanboku subway lines.