Inside the Studio

Rie Kono

Favorite material to work with?
I work with acrylic on several materials. Basically, I paint on canvas but I also like to paint on stones, bags, boards and so on. Once I was painting on a wooden piano in a department store as my performance. While I was painting it, many people saw me and my work and it brought a smile to their faces.

I have a passion to paint wherever I can find empty space. I cannot stop it. Thus, if you come to my studio, you can’t find any empty space these days. I have already painted on the wall, stairs and chairs. I suppose I am good at catching empty areas’ voices saying, “Please paint me!”

What themes do you pursue?
A series of “Ballooning over everywhere” is perhaps the work which I am most proud of. My step-mother Konomi, who was my art mentor, painted balloons and I am trying to carry on her mission. Her mission was to make children smile through her artwork. I think the balloon is the best icon for representing Konomi’s spirit.

How many years as an artist?
I started my career after leaving university thirty years ago.

Where is your studio?
My studio is in Chigasaki, Kanagawa, Japan. Chigasaki is rural and 60km from Tokyo, and there is a famous beach. I have lived there for more than forty years and I love the view of the Pacific Ocean. Unsurprisingly, I often paint views of the sea.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
“The art is the seed.” In my country, the seed is often used as an analogy for “something that brings about positive results.” Therefore “the art is the seed” means the art has a magical power that brings everyone’s happiness.

Art school or self-taught?
Although I have not been to art school and studied English and American literature at university, my step-mother Konomi taught me how to paint. I used to go to Konomi’s painting class in her studio. So I suppose I am not a typical self-taught artist.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?
I don’t mind either. I just hope that the audience catches music from my work.

What’s around the corner from your place?
My house is only three minutes on foot from the sea. Unfortunately, I can’t see the beach from my window because there are pine woods between my house and the beach. My studio is also close to a local primary and secondary school where I have run children’s art classes once a week for three years.

Where can we find you outside the studio?
I prefer to stay in my place. Of course when I have exhibitions, I travel to those venues and also I have some painting classes for local people in public places. But if I can stay in my studio for the whole day, that is best.

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?
I have no idea. Indeed, I have never done anything else, except small part-time jobs.

What do you collect?
I’ve kept my step-mother’s collections and I already feel that they have become my own. In my house there are tons of miniatures and a French doll collection. Some of them are valuable and some are not. They are of varying quality. She used to enjoy making and playing with doll’s houses and now I try to keep them as pretty as possible for my family. If I fail to look after them well, I feel very uncomfortable. So I suppose it helps me to feel calm and creative.

Favorite contemporary artist?
If Konomi were alive, I would definitely choose her. But she is no longer with us. So I don’t have any specific favourite contemporary artists now.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
That is good a question. Maybe I would choose an artwork painted by Konomi. When I was a secondary school student, I found an amazing postcard and I fell in love with it immediately. I had not known which artist painted it, but I bought it and I still have it. A few years ago, I found a painting class near my house and I realized it was run by the same artist who painted my lovely postcard. Without this story I wouldn’t have joined a painting class and I wouldn’t have become an artist. Therefore I would like to keep the painting on the postcard if possible. My life was totally changed by it.

Who are your favorite writers?
My favorite writer is Geoffrey Chaucer. My career as an artist started when I painted The Canterbury Tales because at that time I had just studied it at university. I love the ironic characters in the stories. I would like to become friends with them so I painted them.

Is painting dead?
No, I believe that good paintings still have an aura. Only living artwork can attract people. Of course, I aim to paint living artwork.