Finding Japan in Germany! Part 8: An interview with German Sumi-e Artist “Katharina Hacker” about the attractions of Sumi-e painting.

"A report on Japanese culture found in Germany" - In this article TJ writer wasabi, currently in Berlin, is interviewing people she found who are associated with Japan and its culture. This time she interviewed Berlin based Sumi-e artist Katharina Hacker at the “Under The Mango Tree” gallery, where her exhibition was held.

Wasabi & Under The Mango Tree   Culture,

Sumie artist

Katharina's work1

Katharina's work2

European sceneries drawn using Japanese Sumi-e painting.

It was 8 years ago in 2007 when she started learning Sumi-e painting. She majored in illustration at a university, so she already had a background in art. She learned Sumi-e for 5 years under [Rita Böhm] (, the Sumie master who’s been teaching Sumi-e for over 15 years. She has never been to Japan, but she says she is strongly attracted to the Japanese Sumi-e painting style and is “utilizing the white space.” She also says that it’s her “Desire for beauty”. Much of her work includes European sceneries from places she has visited. Through this work, she tries to personally, create a new connection between European countries and the unseen Eastern countries. I’m able to see her free spirit from her painting style and her longing for the unseen Japan.

Katharina's work3

The roots of Sumi-e painting (Suibokuga)

The technique of Sumi-e painting developed in China around the end of the Tang dynasty period (705 to 907) and the beginning of Sung period (960-1247). The Japanese monks who studied in China were said to have brought back the technique to Japan. Japanese Sumi-e painting developed by copying Chinese Sumi-e, but later during the Muromachi period (1338–1573), Japan established its own methods and the Golden era of Sumi-e had finally arrived. Much of the landscape paintings that were drawn during this period modeled natural scenery, to include mountain and river scenes. She says that the Japanese Sumi-e painting style has given her a great deal of motivation in her love for painting nature. The “white space” in Sumi-e is what especially enchants her. Katharina states,

“Japanese Sumi-e embraces white vacant spaces, where I can visualize myself standing alone.” “Chinese Sumi-e usually utilizes the entire piece of paper, filling it with figures.” “I would say that, this is the difference between Japanese and Chinese Sumi-e.”

Katharina's work4
The picture is drawn on the opposite side of the paper.

The new and innovative painting styles have evolved through previous styles!

It was notable that she repeated the word “white space” over several times during the interview. To express the white space, she occasionally uses milk in her paintings. By doing so, the part she paints with milk repels ink, keeping some areas on the paper white. She tries to create new ways through trial and error everyday. I was so amazed by her creativity. Sometimes she’ll draw the pictures on the opposite side of the paper to leave a more ambiguous texture. What finishes her free spirited expression is a ‘Berliner’ style bear stamp signature, because she’s more familiar with it and it’s hard for her to associate with the traditional stamp signature, usually written in Chinese or Japanese. It shows how she mixes the different cultures and it is very ‘Berlin-esque’. Check out the details down below, as well as information on other exhibitions at the gallery.

Katharina's work5

● Katharina Hacker (Sumi-e Artist)
Born in Bremen on the 12th of December 1957. Majored in painting at the “FH für Kunst und Design” in Hannover between 1977 and 1982, and also in restoration and conservation of painting between 1982 and 1986 in Bavaria and Berlin. From 2007 to 2012 studied Sumi-e under the Sumi-e master Rita Böhm. Currently based in Berlin as a Sumi-e artist.

● Under The Mango Tree Design Studio + Art Gallery
An international gallery that predominantly handles international artists in Berlin. They hold exhibitions and also work on textile design and producing products through direct contact with India.

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Writer / Translator

I’m a freelance translator from Tokyo who likes to travel right in the middle of the unpredictables in life. Through the translation of articles I hope to create points of contact between Japan and the rest of the world. As a writer, I want to add information that isn’t in the guide book, from a “wasabi” perspective!



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