Kyoko Matsunaga was born in Hyogo Japan in 1981. She received her BFA in Printmaking in 2004 from Kyoto Seika University which inspired her to pursue Artists’ Books. After graduation, she studied with Yo Yamazaki, a celebrated bookbinder in Japan, for three years. In 2010, she moved to the Bay Area of California and enrolled in Foothill College to study Print and Book Arts. She has received several awards in Japan and in 2015 she received the Hedi Kylie award from 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland, Oregon.
Matsunaga’s artistic background makes her art unique in its mix of contemporary style, historical inspiration and eastern and western influences. Her use of white space, a hallmark of Japanese art, “connects the real world to her dream and beyond” (Matsunaga). Her use of thin, Japanese paper and white spaces reminds us of the effect of our perception on what we see. All of these stylistic choices result in a dream like quality in her work that is unforgettable and unique.
To view all of Matsunaga's work, visit her website.
This interview was conducted by Maggie Johnson over email on June 21st, 2016.
Some edits were made for clarity with the artist's permission.
•What inspired you to become a book artist?
Michel Butor’s livre d’artiste, Fluxus. That I majored in printmaking.
• You have an extensive education in book making both in Japan and in the United States, how did these experiences shape your work? How did your time in California affect your book making style?
In Japan, I acquired fine bookbinding skills and this experience surely supports my books’ exterior. However, I had to make a conscious effort not to become an artisan because book art (as contemporary art) is not known in the country and I felt that too much skills disturb my creativity. My time in California made me more confident to make books as art. I moved to the Bay Area by chance, but fortunately there were a lot of fellow book artists and plenty of opportunities to learn the book arts. I was surprised that many book art classes started with the one fundamental question "what the book art is,” and how much importance was given to the concept of an artwork. That was just what I wanted, but hardly to be expected in Japan.
• Walk me through the process of creating a book, how long does it take, what are the steps etc?
It depends on the book, but in most cases I start from a motif, then take several months to find out the suitable structure, gather/make images, do some digital work, print, bind, and so forth. To complete one edition, it takes a couple of months to several years.
• What kind of software and equipment do you use? How do you combine techniques like inkjet and other forms of printing?
Photoshop, Illustrator, inkjet(dye) printer, table top platen press. I use inkjet for the texture of dye ink, and letterpress for pigment. Usually images/photos were printed with inkjet and letters were letterpress printed.
• You use a lot of old books as parts of your pieces, are you inspired by historic book formats when creating your books?
I use old books to make a comparison of different generations of books (or media).
• Servane Briand mentions in her posting on 23 Sandy gallery that you invented the binding technique she used, how does your relationship with fellow book artists affect your work?
It's enjoyable to see what other artists make, and share new techniques. I always learn a lot from others, but I don’t think it affect my work directly.
• These works seem to be inspired by a place, either real or imagined, why/how do you think books can convey place?
Any place has personal and social memories and I’m interested in the multi-layered aspect of place, not as a scenery, so books are more befitting than separate pictures.
• Time and memory also seem to play a major role in your books, how do you use books to portray the passage of time and perception of time’s passage?
When a book focuses on a line of time, like Intersection, I’d use simple chronological order, but I usually follow the shift in location more than the passage of time.
I prefer accordion books and scrolls than codex style books because those structures portray a succession of something very well. After spending some years outside Japan, I felt a need to rediscover Japanese Emaki scrolls as book arts. The influence of emaki on Japanese manga is well known, but I also have a hint that it certainly affects my own usage of books.
• The Intersection and Kamo both center on rivers and roads, two passageways, a theme that appears several times in your books, what do you find so interesting about rivers and roads/pathways?
I like observing things/people in my daily-life and find some modest beauty of it, because everyone can find it in their own ordinary days, not on special occasions. (Rivers are everywhere in this island but people in desert areas may feel different about it…) Also, roads/pathways and rivers have been shared with many people’s memories for a long period of time, and I’m interested in the layered aspect of them.
• In your works that include people, the faces are always painted over with white, what purpose does this serve in your art?
It was derived from my dreams at first, somehow I can’t see people’s faces clearly in my dreams, then I use the method to describe unspecified person. Plus, you usually forget about the people who passed by on the road.
• What is your favorite part about book making?
That I can reassemble my memories and give it a new meaning. It is like finding a constellation.
What are Artists' Books?