■ Star Rhymes
These collections were created in collaboration with Robert Marteau, a French poet, and were exhibited at my solo exhibitions which were held in 2010 and 2011. The essay below about our relationship, from my first encounter with him until the completion of our collaborative creation, was written for my solo exhibition held in March 2010.
■ Collections of Poems and Pictures Entitled ‘Star Rhymes’ and My Encounter with Robert Marteau
I am very sorry to say that I do not have a great deal of knowledge of ‘poetry’, even if I am the author of collections of poems and pictures. I would say that poems, which I see as being a compression of linguistic expression, do not usually affect me profoundly. However, in the autumn of 2003, whilst I was in Tokyo, I encountered a poem that deeply touched my heart. I remember that this short poem was included in a beautiful pamphlet of the engravings made by a Japanese artist and that it bore the name ‘Robert Marteau, a French poet’.
A decade later, I won a residency in Paris under the Japanese Government’s Overseas Study Program for Artists and worked in a studio there. At the time I vaguely thought of looking for the poet, aided only by that exhibition pamphlet which I had kept all that time. However, before I had even begun searching, I unexpectedly discovered that a big exhibition of his collaborative works with various international artists was going to be held at a library in Paris. It was rather boorish of me, but I took my works with me when I attended the party for the exhibition. Since I could not speak French very well, my first meeting with him ended up with me just saying ‘Enchante’ to him. He was a much older gentleman than I had expected and his eyes were so serene that he remained in my memory afterwards. It was a brief meeting but it satisfied the interest in him that I had fostered for so long.
Soon after that, Hector Saunier, the Director of the Atelier Contrepoint, who was my supervisor there at that time, somehow knew of my interest in Robert and kindly organised an opportunity for me to show my works to him at the Atelier. After viewing my collection of poems and prints entitled ‘Itoyu’, Robert told me, ‘If you want to collaborate, let’s start immediately. I will write poems for your pictures’ and offered me his hand. It surprised me immensely to hear such words from this eighty-four-year old great master, for he was very well known and respected in both the French and the international literary worlds. However, his proposal of ‘creating together a collection of poems and pictures that will be free from any conventional ideas’ made me decide to create a collection that could express ‘utsuroi’, that is, something that I felt in Paris. This work would be based on my own theme: ‘time cycling in life’.
Robert encouraged me to create my works based on this main theme without any restrictions. In order to rise to such a challenge I initially made a number of watercolours and drawings using crayons. When I first made these works my intention was to develop them into copperplate prints later. However, they seemed to resonate with him far more than I had expected. This then led to us developing our initial idea of basing our collection only on print works, into an alternative one, of creating two types of collections under the same title. One was to consist of our original works, my watercolour pictures with his hand-written poems: the other, print works that were made from the original works. In both collections, the reverse side of each work commonly shows an image of the skies in Paris that I loved; these were printed using the monotype technique. This printing method can never produce the same image twice; I see the transience of the swaying skies overlapped in the images of these monotypes. The landscapes of the skies with intersecting vapour trails that were made by airplanes show very beautiful graduations. These are my ever-lasting landscape views of Paris that I look at through a window within my mind.
He took a long time to spin my images into his ‘poems’. It has been said that as the original French-written poems rhyme, that it would be more appropriate to call them ‘song lyrics’. Knowing this, I feel very unfortunate that I cannot understand these great French poems as they are; however, they have been transformed into the Japanese language in such a way that they have been able to reach my sensibility. It was Chihoko Araki who translated the poems, as she had already done many times before for Robert’s other poems. I believe that her carefully selected beautiful Japanese words are capable of guiding readers to the universe that Robert created, in the same way that his original French poems would have done.
Before the completion of these collections of poems and pictures, I found that it was not always easy for us to understand one other. In addition to that, the long-term international project plan could not easily be carried out; in the process of collaboration misunderstandings often occurred due to the cultural differences. However, with some help from my friends at the Atelier we managed to resolve the difficulties whenever they arose, and finally that single encounter became a series of art works. I would like to express my deep gratitude for the kindness of Hector Saunier and the support of my friends associated with the Atelier that meant that I could complete my one-year stay in Paris without any trouble, and that I am able to present my collections of poems and pictures today. Also, I hope that these works will be seen by those who have so generously supported me and allowed me to realise my long-term dream of studying abroad, as I feel that these collections of poems and pictures are the fruit of all the elements and influences that I experienced during my study in Paris.
11th March 2010, Masaaki Ohya
Born in 1925, died in 2011. Poet and author. He wrote many works other than his poems. His novel Pentecôte was published in 1973 by Gallimard, the publisher that has published so many works of modern French authors. He communicated with many artists during his long career and collaborated with them to create many collections of poems and pictures. In 2009 an exhibition entitled ‘Robert Marteau & Ses Amis Peintres et Graveurs’ was held at the Médiathèque, in a Parisian suburb, presenting his original collaborative books of poems and pictures created along with thirty-six artists. The latest collection of his poems, Le Temps Ordinaire was published by Champ Vallon in 2009.