Finding Japan in Germany! Part 9: A Sumi-e Workshop with a German Sumi-e master who has been teaching for over 15 years.

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 the master Sumi-e artist, Rita Böhm, who taught Sumi-e to the artist Katharina Hacker at the “Under The Mango Tree” gallery where Katharina’s work was exhibited.

2017-05-18 Wasabi   Culture,

The teacher, Rita.

Workshop participants and Rita in the back.

Surrounded by Sumi-e and learning Sumi-e painting at the gallery.

I had previously introduced an interview with the Sumi-e artist, Katharina Hacker at the gallery “Under The Mango Tree”, where her exhibition was held. This workshop was held by her Sumi-e master, Rita Böhm while her exhibition was held. Most of the participants who came here know about Katharina’s work through her exhibition. Some of them are even familiar with Zen and have a background in painting. The workshop started by drawing bamboo, thought to be the basics of Sumi-e painting. Later, people moved on to more advanced painting using flowers and birds as their subjects. Since it was a full-day event starting from morning to evening, participants looked at creations they had done earlier in the day and were impressed with their latter work. I asked one of the participants what was particularly interesting to her, and she said it was the “brushwork”. She also stated that, “It was a completely new experience for me to hold the brush and keep it still.” Another participant was moved by the deep world of Sumi-e and expressed her excitement,

“When I drew a chicken, I felt that I was integrated with the chicken, as if I became one with the painting.” “ I think Sumi-e is all about feeling.”

A student painting her Sumi-e.

A student's work.

Rita Böhm has over 15 years of experience teaching Sumi-e.

She was born in Leipzig in 1939. She had moved to Morocco, France, and South America for her architecture-related job and had finally found herself in Brazil one day. In the beginning of the 20th Century, Brazil was a colony of Japan and many Japanese migrated there, introducing Japanese art into Brazilian society at the time. Under this influence, she had met Zen master, Ryotan Tokuda and Sumi-e master, Masao Okinaka in 1983, who both, launched her into the world of Sumi-e. The way she encountered Japanese Sumi-e in Japan indicates we are entering a modern world, where the concept of time and space has changed drastically. She says that the attractions of Sumi-e are the concept of “Here and Now”. I thought to myself, the philosophy of the ‘white space’ and her life, both have something in common. She’s realized that the world is a white space by travelling around the world and living in on-going societies where everything had rapidly changed.

Japanese book about Hagaki postcard.
Japanese book about Hagaki postcard collections.

Under The Mango Tree Design Studio + Art Gallery
An international gallery that mainly 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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