In this newsletter, I wanted to tell you about my connection with Japan, Japanese culture and its people, and namely history professor at Chubu University in Japan – Mr. Rio Kojima. He miraculously discovered my pictures online and sent me an email back in September 2008:
“Dear Jurgita, do not be surprised to receive a mail from an unknown person living on the other side of this planet”, it started… Needless to say, I was surprised and validated for having created my website, after months of what it seemed like an endless debacle. In his letter, R. Kojima asked me for permission to use one of my images – “Matter, Energy, Space, Time” for the cover of a Japanese academic magazine he has been editor-in-chief since 2004 – “Arena”. I found out that he was a visiting history professor at Vytautas Magnus University in 1993–1995 and that he often checked new trends in the Lithuanian art scene. Well, the truth, as I later learned was much more beautiful and mysterious… Delighted I agreed and thus started our collaboration, exchange of ideas, patronage, and friendship. In the magazine prof. Rio Kojima published an article about me “Jurgita Gerlikaite’s World of Meditations”, as an introduction to Japanese readers.
Another cover picture in “Arena” magazine soon followed. This time – “Equinox Moon”, and knowing Japanese fascination with the Moon this choice was not at all surprising.
This connection and fascination with Japan first started with Japanese prints and ink paintings by Fujiwara no Takanobu, Josetsu, Utamaro, Hokusai, Yoshitoshi, Hiroshige, calligraphy, and writers, especially Murasaki Shikibu, Sei Shōnagon and Kōbō Abe, poetry, especially tankas and haikus by Buddhist monks and continued through my Art History and Visual Art studies. I wrote my BA thesis on Japanese Zen Art. I am still very fond of the Kill the Buddha concept (don’t take it literally, better yet, look it up)…
Prof. R. Kojima also encouraged me to publish my picture book and wrote an introduction for it in 2009.
“Regarding her artistic origins, Jurgita Gerlikaite formerly studied Japanese Zen Buddhist art. Though exaggerated outside influences contributed to misreading the artist’s ingenious development, I undoubtedly recognize a synchronous message between Zen philosophy and her works. For example, observing part of an eye depicted in her symbolically entitled work “Matter, energy, space, time” (2006), the face denotes an absence of expression quite similar to that of a Noh mask. The work is composed of black and white monochromatic colour tones characteristic of Zen painting. The ‘face’ obviously meditates to seek ‘absence of subjectivity’ and ‘nothingness’ of existence. This work signifies the study of existence over the representation.” (An excerpt from the introduction “Jurgita Gerlikaite’s meditation and dissolution of subjectivity – a world of digital Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis” by prof. Rio Kojima, 2009).
We have kept in touch through all the years and met several times in professors’ beloved Starbucks in London and in Vilnius.
Rio Kojima was born in Nara, Japan, in 1956. For his academic profile, see the Chubu University website. Prof. R. Kojima has written more than 10 books and 50 articles, and essays published in English, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Japanese, Albanian and Bulgarian.
Most recently Vytautas Magnus University Press published a collection of selected articles in several languages by prof. Rio Kojima. For the front and back covers of the book, he selected two of my pictures “Deira” and “Rain”.
I find it’s symbolic that this particular picture (“Deira”) was chosen, in Western iconography, a shell is a symbol of a pilgrimage. I feel this has been a central motif in my life – cultural pilgrimage, but to a large extent also religious and spiritual. And I never failed to take my experiences along, and interlay and mesh it creating a new reality, infuse it with colour or leave it monochrome. Eventually, I am back to where it all started this lifetime – Vilnius.