George Tsutakawa: ‘I look forward to many more productive years’

George Tsutakawa June 15, 1989 0

The following essay was developed for a catalog of an international sculpture exhibit to be held in Sendai, Japan this summer. George Tsutakawa is the only American artist in the exhibit.

Fountains have been essential to communities ever since man became aware of the importance of water to life. Water is the main ingredient in the atmosphere which surrounds the earth. The movement and transformation of moisture from the earth up into the atmosphere and the changes from solid to liquid to vapor: from ice to sleet, rain to mist and fog influence the atmosphere where humankind has to live.

This is one reason why I am concerned with fountains. There are fountains all over the world; one can see that water has taken on a symbolic quality for all civilizations. In many civilizations, water symbolizes the purifying, the cleansing, the offering of life. In Japan, people cleanse themselves before entering temples for a spiritual experience.

There are many forms of fountains. The reflecting pool of the Taj Mahal shows one method of using water to glorify architecture. The Romans used water in aqueducts and reservoirs and pools. They then developed the technology to create fountains with water shooting at statues and from the mouths of statues in order to add drama to the human or animal form. The Moorish style developed in Spain was to create a spray of water without sculpture.

The inspiration for my first fountains was found in OBOS, the Tibetan practice of piling rocks at spiritually important sites on Himalayan mountain paths. This endeavor to create verticality, to reach for the heavens, impressed me as an essential aspect of the spirit of mankind.

I have completed over 60 bronze fountain sculptures, most of which have been inspired by nature. Where I live, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, features a wonderful natural environment. There, we are close to both mountains and water. The bodies of water are salt water harbors and large fresh water lakes, rivers and streams. I am also inspired by the rocks and geologic formations created by volcanoes and glaciers eons ago. The ubiquitous rain and cloudy weather make for a lush green landscape. But at the same time, the natural light is clean and bright, allowing for colors and forms to be vibrant with life.

I like to emphasize the movement, the rhythm, color and sound of water. I like to form it into sheets and sprays and cascades and droplets. All of this combines with the basic physicality of the sculpture which underlies my personal artistic statement. Most of my fountains are in public places. I study the location, the surrounding park, streets, trees, gardens and the way people move in the area. It is important for me to visualize how people will be interacting with my fountains in their daily lives. Each fountain is designed specifically for the site.

I cannot deny the Japanese sense of aesthetics which has had a great influence over my art work. As a small boy, I grew up in the Fukuyama area with my grandparents who taught me the traditional

Japanese skills of painting, calligraphy and tea ceremony, Later, when I returned to the United States and was training as an artist in the Western skills of oils, block prints and so on, I was fortunate to have contact with the great painters Morris Graves in Seattle. They were deeply involved in the study of Zen philosophy and sumi painting and other arts of Japan. I learned from them an appreciation for Japanese art and philosophy.

I have in more recent years, have been concentrating on the use of sumi painting as a medium for expression as a contrast with my metal sculptures. I enjoy the spontaneity and portability of the sumi and like to sketch while traveling with my family in the great Northwest.

I feel I’ve been fortunate to have been able to make my home in the Northwest and to have held a university teaching position which allowed me flexibility to create my own art work and to be with my family. I have many projects and commissions in progress, which I am completing with my son, Gerard, also a sculptor. I look forward to many more productive years.

A retrospective exhibition of the life and art of George Tsutakawa will be held in the fall of 1990 at the Bellevue Art Museum.

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