The Comfort of Glass Art to Those Passing Through a Structure
KANAGAWA – Mari Noguchi’s Works of Architectural Glass Art Capture Ephemerality. Art sometimes presents us with unconventional ideas that strike in unexpected ways; sometimes it even enables us to access an old memory. Mari Noguchi, a pioneer of architectural glass art in Japan, has been producing such work for nearly 30 years in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture. She tries to capture the uncapturable moment that the wind or a certain light makes us feel “comfortable.”
In her work, both novelty and nostalgia coexist, and a pleasant sensation emerges. Mari’s work fills a space with a sense of humanity and nature despite her inorganic material – glass.
Invisible natural phenomena come and go. For instance, it is like the scent of a lawn carried on a breeze, a swath of the cosmos reflected in a river, white clouds slowly floating in the blue sky, innumerable stars sparkling in a jet-black universe. Although we remember those scenes that are stored in a corner of our mind, the same scenes will never happen again. They are unique, fragile experiences. Mari Noguchi takes such moments and transforms them into unique expressions with the use of different types of glass.
“I want to give form to an ephemeral natural phenomenon like wind or light. When I thought of how to express that ephemerality, glass seemed the most neutral material to me,” Mari said. The transparent energy that glass gives out looks delicate, but it is at the same time straightforwardly powerful.
Mari Noguchi’s strength lies in large-scale objects that stretch over a gigantic wall or a high pillar in a spacious hall. One of her works is a glass wall eight meters high. The category “architectural glass art,” in which architecture and art are integrated, is well-known in the west but not here. Mari Noguchi has been pursuing this category of art for decades in Japan. Since 1989, she has produced mainly large objects out of her Yokohama-based factory.
In the work titled “Cherry Blossoms Dancing in Kimpa Rimpa” (2016, about two meters high by five meters wide, installed at the entrance of restaurant Yokohama Hoshi no Naru Ki) thousands of gold and silver cherry blossoms flutter in the wind, slowly flowing. Cherry blossoms look alive and dynamic in her static design. When you walk along this restaurant’s narrow corridor you will be overwhelmed by the audacious but refined design seen up close. This enormous glass wall returns us to the good old days, where tiny, pink-tinged cherry blossoms whirled about in the wind. With this otherworldly scene just next to us, even if we reach out for the petals, they slip away from our grasp.
Many gold and silver leaves are incorporated into this work. Inserting gold leaf between pieces of glass is one of Mari’s unique techniques. When the gold leaves are layered between the glass, a shadowy contrast will emerge, enabling a sharp three-dimensionality. Lights in the design transform into plural beams, helping the cherry blossoms seem actively fluttering.
Mari uses a technique called “sandblast etching.” In this technique, a cut-out design is pasted onto the glass surface. When high-pressured fine sand is blasted onto the glass surface, the stencil protects the glass except for the intended gaps. These etched areas form the pattern of the design, and the stencils are removed later. Curved lines are also made in this way. After shaving the surface, gold leaves will be placed one by one in accordance with the lines. This refined technique requires a lot of attention. Many parts come together to form an image that stretches across the entire wall. By making complicated layers, the movement of flower petals and light will seem more immediate and real.