motoko dobashi


Text for the solo exhibition "Grass Pillow" in the gallery Dina4 Projekte Munich

Dr. Susanna C. Ott
June, 2007

Japanese artist Motoko Dobashi (*1976) attended the Musashino Art University in Tokyo before moving to Germany in 2000 and continuing her studies at the Akademie der Künste in Munich. She achieved her degree as a master student (Meisterschüler) of Markus Oehlen in 2007.
In her works on paper as well as in large scale wall paintings Dobashi melts elements from the graphic arts of various cultures and eras, referring to visual sources like Renaissance copperplate engravings, Street Art or Mangas and combining different techniques such as drawing, painting and collage.
For the exhibition at Dina4Projekte Motoko Dobashi has designed a wall painting for one of our gallery spaces which is especially conceived to fit the unusual floor plan. „Grass Pillow“ thematically deals with the idea of spending the night outdoors under the open sky. The painting is covering the walls as well as the ceiling and a pillar in the room's center. Small scale works on paper from the years 2004-2007 will be shown in the adjacent gallery space.
Motoko Dobashi creates monochrome landscapes, usually covering two or more walls and integrating preexisting architectural features like doorways, stairs or ledges. Her palette is reduced to white, black and a special kind of blue used for shading and defining surfaces. A continuous central perspective is not established – the surface is segmented into layers that seem to be arranged one behind the other, each representing a particular aesthetic: Graphically shaped representational elements are confronted with monochrome water-coloury backgrounds; ornamental areas meet stylized fragments of drawn landscapes. The inhomogeneous layers are interlocked by paper elements collaged to the surface that symbolically represent the work's main theme and bring to mind the logo stickers known from Street Art.
Even though the wall paintings combine different incongruent perspectives, spatial illusion is created by the layering of the sections. This effect is enforced by the repeated use of the motif of entrance which is central to all wall paintings.
For instance the depiction of an opening to a cave to which stairs or a path lead from the lower edge of the painting can function as a virtual point of access for the viewer.
These entry areas support the reception of the plane as a three dimensional, naturalistic space – an illusion that is at the same time disturbed by the affirmatively artificial construction of the picture space.
Motoko Dobashi's paintings represent a synthesis of formal and thematic characteristics of Japanese and German Art, therewith reflecting the artist's bipolar cultural background. The linear graphic modus with its fluently drawn contours and the abdication of light and shade as well as the multi-perspectivity refer to the traditional Japanese colour woodcuts. This technique was blooming in the 19th century with artists like Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai and was also widely received in Europe. Today still, the monochrome style of the popular Mangas commemorates the early Japanese woodcut from which these contemporary comic strips derive. From German art, Dobashi cites amongst others the copperplate engravings of Albrecht Dürer that were already widely diffused in their time. She appropriates pictorial elements like clouds or trees from Dürer's prints and integrates them in her work. Moreover, the play with the recipient's perception and the suggestion of an imaginary entrance in the picture space refer to German romanticism, namely the motif of the Rückenfigur – a person shown from the back – which, as in Caspar David Friedrichs paintings, allows the viewer to identify with the painting's protagonist.


Motoko Dobashi