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All language is metaphor, but why, when presented with such lush beauty and rich, variegated detail, sensual expanses of interlocking spaces, comforting touches of delicacy, evidence of struggle, and trails of influence—why, when confronted with this copious amount of visual, spatial, and tactile information, with aesthetic facts within easy reach, do Fumiko Amano’s paintings so relentlessly push the viewer toward analogy? It’s like Asian screen painting, it’s like ancient stone-wall graffiti palimpsests, it’s like a trompe l’oeil painting of a receding coastline, it’s like looking out a window through a lacy curtain, it’s like a temple door, it’s like church, it’s like Monet, it’s like Alma-Tadema, it’s like Turner, it’s like kimono, it’s like a trellised rose garden. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Though art more lovely and more temperate. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May . . .”
Perhaps it’s a way of processing the complex choreography of Amano’s compositions. They are balanced but asymmetrical, and they have a lot going on—a lot of different kinds of elements, akin to the gentle cacophony of a chorus of whispering voices in a crowded café. There, you see! It cannot be helped. They seem spiritual because they are a bit exotic (read Eastern) and a bit classical (read Western). They bear witness to the deliberations and specific actions taken by the artist, without being roughed-up, actionist rumbles. They seduce with a soothing, defiantly lovely take on the world, making no effort to hide their seams or scaffolds.
Viewing Amano’s work means taking a closer look; layer upon layer of shy details emerge from behind translucent veils and are the rewards of patience. At an intimate scale, the experience is poetic and manageable, private. At the much larger scale at which the C.O.L.A. grant has allowed her to work, she sacrifices nothing of the rich, painstaking detail required to create this unfurling, geological effect. The architectural size of the new paintings does not explode her up-close and personal brushwork and collage, nor do these passages of texture, incidents of shape, and brave outposts of color occupy the entirety of their spaces. In fact, the misty, coy emptiness at the physical and poetic center of the larger paintings engages the ambient light and architecture, so that the archipelagos of floral-leaning abstraction seem all the more to float freely in the atmosphere—the more so as the viewer moves across them.
John Cage once observed: “We are simpleminded enough to think that if we were saying something we would use words. We are rather doing something. The meaning of what we do is determined by each one who sees and hears it.” And indeed, all renderings of perspective are subject to debate and manipulation, despite their mathematical foundations, or perhaps because of them. All is description, and at least once removed. All is inferred, implied, caught in the act of seeming. And yet in art one is free to choose the apparent truth over the demonstrable one. These paintings feel true and right; they make sense—a treasury of half-remembered poems, animated by the promise of recovery.
— Shana Nys Dambrot