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Tetsuya Noda

by Vivienne Kenrick

The College Women’s Association of Japan is holding its 51st Annual Print Show Oct. 20 to 22 at the Tokyo American Club. As well as exhibiting 211 new prints, the show features demonstrations, activities and lectures, and an associate show focusing on two young prize-winning women.

All the events are free and open to the public. Tetsuya Noda, exhibiting with CWAJ for the 35th time, is the cover artist for this year’s catalog. He will sign posters of his own print and copies of the catalog on Oct. 21 and 22 at the Club.

Noda radiates calm happiness. He finds not only delight in the everyday, but also the subjects for his art. Thirty years ago he said that he had almost no time for his own work. “It’s important to live first,” he said, “to think what is art th rough everyday life. This is the only way I can do anything because that is I.”

As a student he was obliged to try other ways. He said, “In order to pass my university entrance examinations, I had to study at a special kind of preparatory school. I realized that I was doing something strange that had nothing to do with me, but I had to do it. I had then to look at myself, know myself, or I was just repeating someone else’s expression.”

From Kumamoto, the son of a school principal, Noda entered the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. He took his master’s degree in painting and printmaking, and thought through his attitude. “I looked at my everyday life,” he said. “Expression comes from everyday life. I still try to look for something usual, something that we don’t realize.”

Noda began his Diary series in 1968. In the same year he won the Grand Prize of the Tokyo International Print Biennale. Painstakingly he devised his own techniques, experimenting with inks, papers, screens and stencils. As a child he had watched his father who enjoyed photography, and in turn he used his camera, “in order to document life. It’s easier than a sketch pad,” he said.

His photography became his diary recording daily events. Combining his own methods with traditional techniques and materials of printmaking, he modified and composed images from his photos. The curator at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco said that Noda’s finished work shows him standing “as the most original, innovative and thought-provoking Japanese printmaker of his era.” Last year the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco presented “Days in a Life: The Art of Tetsuya Noda,” emphasizing Noda’s celebration of the quotidian.

In 1971, Noda married Dorit, the daughter of Moshe Bartur, who was then the Israeli ambassador to Japan. The son and daughter born to the couple provided Noda with unending subject matter. His prints show scenes that everyone knows, cluttered rooms, a child wrapped in a blanket, a kicked-off pair of shoes, a stuffed toy in a plain chair. For many years his work revolved around his personal story of ordinary family life. More recently he turned to still-life, cardboard boxes of vegetables, cut fruit, flowers, shown in minutest detail. Most recently he represents scenery that everyone sees, but always he gives to it the original slant of the artist.

Noda was appointed lecturer at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in 1977. He has been professor there since 1990. He has also been visiting artist in many different locales, including the University of Alberta, Canada, the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Israel, the Vanderbilt University and Columbia University, USA, the Canberra School of Art, Australia, and the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts, Japan. He has been a juror of international biennales in Britain and Korea as well as in Japan.

He has won grand prizes in Norway and Slovenia and is the recipient of the Purple Ribbon Medal given by the Japanese Government. A catalog for a recent exhibition gives two pages of tiny type to a list of his world-wide solo and group exhibitions, half a page to his awards, and a full page to the prestigious museums which include his work in their collections.

Noda is about to retire from teaching at his university, but is as vigorous as ever in his keen observations and recordings. The family home in Chiba Prefecture has a small garden, and Noda likes to make things grow. He believes with the poet that “in the mud and scum of things, something always, always sings.”

The Print Show is CWAJ’s main fund-raising event. All proceeds support the organization’s scholarship and education fund. This year, CWAJ has awarded 11 scholarships worth 26 million yen to students from Bangladesh, Canada, China, Poland, Japan and the USA. Web site: www.cwaj.org