Just as William Blake found a ``world in a grain of sand,'' Japanese-born artist Homare Ikeda cultivates whole worlds in his monotypes: Every sheet of white paper is an opportunity for the formation of a new cosmos. The artist's delicate abstractions quietly beckon his viewers to engage in an honest dialogue with the work.
``I guess I am more comfortable ... with abstract thinking,'' says Mr. Ikeda. ``I like the poetic way of expressing [in abstraction], rather than to tell the stories in a literal way.''
He makes his mark, his ``footprint,'' as he calls it, on the blank sheet of paper. ``Then my life begins,'' he says, smiling. ``It's like life itself. When I do painting or prints, I try not to force it. I just let things happen.''
Ikeda does not imagine the images before placing them on paper: His art-making is really more a process of discovery. He chooses the colors, always very important to him, but he tries to let them move onto the paper in a natural, fluid motion in which he finds new forms. He applies color with a roller to the plate he works on, laying down the first sheet of paper. He doesn't clean off the plate; he adds more colors - always subtle earth tones - trying all the while not to preconceive the ideas, but to let them unfold naturally. He is after a kind of ``intricate energy,'' he says, wherein the viewer may make his or her own discoveries.
``My attitude is not to try to conquer, but to try to behold,'' says Ikeda. ``I am drawn to color that gives a sense of the past rather than the future.'' It is difficult for him to describe in words what emotions he tries to evoke in the monotypes, but he considers them primordial feelings that convey an infinite sense of life before time.
``My whole struggle shows in these [pieces]. My passions and fears come through, my accumulation of life. I'm really trying to feel as much as I can what it means to be human.''
Part of what it means to be human is the need to communicate with others. Ikeda leaves most of the work untitled because he doesn't want to impose an interpretation on it. He prefers that the viewer be open to the work and respond freely to it. The communication lies not just in what the artist has to say, but in the viewer's response. He doesn't like catchy titles because he believes they give pieces ``too loud a voice.'' He works small - another way to produce ``quiet'' works.
Ikeda grew up on the tiny island of Yoron, off the southern coast of Japan. It took him many years to find out what he wanted to do with his life. He tried many different jobs and traveled all over the world before he came to the United States. He attended San Joaquin Delta College in California to learn English and there took up art.
``I knew I liked to work with my hands, so I started taking art classes - started with sculpture. I was comfortable building with my hands in clay and then wax. Then I started painting in oil and went to monotypes and engraving from there.''
He is still painting. He likes to work in encaustic, a method by which wax is mixed with pigment. He builds his canvases in heavy impasto. The color is rich and luminous - far different from the warm earth tones of his monotypes. It takes him three to four years to complete a painting, while the monotypes are completed quickly.