Ippodo Gallery celebrates its brand new location on 32 E 67th Street with a spectacular exhibition of paintings by Ken Matsubara from his “Kūkai’s View ‘Sun and Moon’” series. The concept for this series derives from the Heian period with the renowned Buddhist monk, poet and scholar, Kūkai (774-835), who retreated to the caves of Muroto Cape in the Shikoku region of Japan to meditate. There, Kūkai saw nothing but sky, sea, and the cycles of night and day. He repeated the Buddhist Ākāśagarbha mantra endlessly until he felt at one with the natural cycles of the sun and moon he saw before him. It was here, at the young age of 19, that he achieved a flash of enlightenment and thereafter named himself Kū (Sky) Kai (Sea).

About 1200 years later, in 2015, Ken Matsubara also traveled to Muroto Cape to stay in the same caves. He wanted to form his own connection with the mind and experiences of Kūkai. For two years, he contemplated his vision for a painting. In January 2017, he started painting. In September 2017, the series was complete. On Echigo Washi paper, Ken Matsubara first applied a thin coat of red, bengala oxide for a more flexible and textured background. He then used a mixture of Yamashina earth with acrylic resin to produce his unique mud base, which he outlined with rich, sumi ink and silvery mica. The focus of each painting- the sun or moon – is made with gold or white gold for a lustrous depiction of the serene sky.

These paintings were originally commissioned as Fusuma doors by Seizo Hayashiya (1928-2017) who was the former director of the Musée Tomo, honorary member of Tokyo National Museum, and a great connoisseur of teaware. They were destined for the Jingoji temple where Kūkai stayed after returning from China with Buddhist teachings. However, as Hayashiya passed before the completion of the works, the series is now making its overseas debut at Ippodo Gallery, New York. Ken Matsubara’s paintings have a quiet power that unites us with an intangible and universal energy. As an homage to his inspiration, underneath each panel is Matsubara’s favorite poem by Kūkai, ‘Hizo Hoyaku.’ The poem is a reminder of how little we truly know about ourselves in this grand universe.

In addition to the works pictured, there will be 15-20 more pieces, including his symbolic “Scenery (Kei)” series. This exhibtion will mark the grand opening of Ippodo Gallery New York’s new space on 32 E. 67th Street. It will be located on the third floor of an Art Deco building at a prime location in the art gallery district of New York. We hope to continue transmitting knowledge of Japanese culture in this new location through exhibitions of outstanding art-crafts created by contemporary artists, both now and into the future.

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