Volume 1, Number 2, August 2003


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Kuniharu Shimizu

Kuniharu Shimizu - Interview by Erin Harte

Q) If you could personally present one of your haiga as a gift to one of the masters who would it be and what poem of theirs would you use? Why?

A) No particular haijin come to my mind now. I would however be delighted to meet haijin like Basho, Buson, and Issa. I would like to travel with Basho. I would like to sit down on a beach and talk story with Buson. I would like to have a tea with Issa in his humble hut. In all cases, I would bring my laptop computer along and make haiga on the site, using whatever haiku these haijin could come up with then.

I am dreaming of, one day, traveling all over the haiku world with my laptop, meeting haijin I have come to know through my web activities, and making haiga on the spot. I would in return ask for a free boarding or a meal for the haiga.

Q) Whose haiga do you most admire and why?

A) When I started making haiga, I looked around haiga made by Japanese old masters, especially ones by Buson. To my surprise, there were not many available. Even at the library, I could not find books that collectively show the old haiga. I did find some on the webpages, but that is not hardly enough to decide whose haiga I like the best.

Buson is a brush painter with extensive professional training. I like some of his larger works as well as his haiga. Basho was not a trained painter but he did some really nice haiga. In olden days, people used sumi brush to write all the time so many of them alreay had good command of brush stroke. To draw a haiga, all they had to do was to emply the same brush strokes to depict trees and mountains.

Being a modern Japanese, I use pens and the keyboard to write, hardly having chance to use sumi brush. I like the old sumi-brushed haiga because they are done with skilled hands, so skilled that I cannot match. I like them because I cannot produce them myself.

Q) Most often, which is true for you? The image is inspired by the poem
or the poem is inspired by the image.

A) In my case, it is always "The image is inspired by the poem". I received the formal art education and for a while I continued to paint seriously. But at some point in my life, I could no longer get inspiration so I stopped painting. I stopped painting but the urge to paint still remained. It was a rather frustrating situation.

I, then, met haiku. I found that haiku, though simple and short as they are, gave me the kind of inspiration I need to paint, or rather in my case, to make visual images. There are unlimited number of haiku around. That means I can keep satisfying my urge to paint as long as I live. That is wonderful. What is more, I can experiment all kinds of techniques and media to best
show my intepretation of the haiku. That is challenging.

So, I am a happy person now.

Q) To digitally enhance or not to digitally enhance and why?

A) I use a lot of traditional approach, like in some cases I use sumi and brush, in other case I use pen to make line drawings. Whatever the approaches, I digitize them all and assemble them on computer screen.

The final product being a digital data is very important to me. I plan to publish all of my haiga in the form of books when the right time comes. I also plan to exhibit my haiga in a gallery setting. I need small images for the book and larger ones for the exhibit. The digital data can
satisfy both.

I use the computer now mainly for the above reason. Another reason is that I am a full time administrator, the job that does not permit me long hours for a painting. With computer, I can work on haiga even at office during bits of free time here and there.

Kuniharu Shimizu
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