Michiko Iwata | Studio Visit

We have represented the works of the Iwatas for a while but have waited too long to formally introduce them! Below is Michiko Iwata and Keisuke Iwata – an artist couple who live by the sea in Fukutsu, near Fukuoka. Sometimes with artist couples, it is challenging to talk about one without the other, especially if they live and have studios in the same home. However, Michiko-san’s practice is so different from her husband’s that we will focus solely on our studio visit with her. Later in the year, we will be releasing a collection of ceramics by Keisuke Iwata online and can’t wait to highlight the visit from a different perspective at that time.

Michiko Iwata and Keisuke Iwata sitting side by side at their home in Fukuoka
Michiko Iwata opening the door to her studio

Michiko-san is an assemblage artist. Her studio occupies a light-filled building. The space is packed with materials and objects at every turn. We witnessed works in progress everywhere. It was hard to tell where one ends, and another begins.

Inside the studio of Michiko Iwata lined with materials and stacks of wood blocks
Book collection propped on a shelf featuring the cover of art book of works by Malick Sadibe
Top down shot of cardboard box filled with recycled paper forms
Pink cut up Bruce Nauman poster with text
Works in progress with yellow cylinder, house and sphere
Colourful found objects at Michiko Iwata's studio

In one corner rests a découpage Bruce Nauman poster collected at Dia Beacon cut into a circle. In another, she had a painted sphere carefully balanced on a cube. Somehow all these pieces come together by way of her particular vision. We love being in spaces like this that are full of inspiration and quirks of the artist. With nothing manicured, we felt like we had a chance to get an authentic first-hand look at where the magic happens.

The work desk of Michiiko Iwata
French handwritten text on an old white sheet of paper
Michiko Iwata's works in progress in the foreground with Stevenson Aung blurred in background
Stacked muted colourful boxes made by Michiko Iwata stacked in a shelf
Bird's eye view of five house installations neatly in a row by Michiko Iwata

Michiko-san’s works are truly unique, owing to the materials she uses. They are found objects, sometimes elements that some may consider trash like crumpled receipts, wood scraps, old paulownia wood boxes, bottle caps and rusty metal. She takes these items collected from travels around the world and in her daily life and layers them together to create wall hangings, installations, and sculptures. The houses are what we connect with most. All are approximately the same size, 3×6 inches, but are of different materials so each has an individual spirit.

Shelves packed with Michiko Iwata's materials
Hand formed matte texture sphere with Michiko Iwata blurred in the foreground
Drawer full of white and blue hand formed and painted spheres

Sublime artistry dwells in the works of Michiko-san. They come to life when you interact with the pieces and play – when you can abandon your senses for what calls to them. The works demand to be touched and activated with the help of the viewer, especially her installations. They have mobile parts, magnets, blocks, and all kinds of elements that rearrange to create new scenes. Moving a few pieces around may sound mundane yet, with her works, you can experience the enchantment this simple act can have and begin to appreciate them substantially more. You can sense the tactile qualities of the materials when you intimately hold them in your hands to inspect angles and envision the origin of each element – like stories without words.

shelf with blocks of wood
a house in progress sitting on a desk at Michiko Iwata's studio
Recycled cylindrical forms in blue, gray and yellow lined on a shelf with white four legged animals blurred in foreground
Cardboard pawlonia wood box made into a house with recycled materials by Michiko Iwata

When I hold Iwata’s houses, I recall a ceramic sculpture of a house that our dear friend Aya had propped on her windowsill in her old loft in Brooklyn. When I asked her about it, she said it represents the only home she and her husband Miwa were able to have at the time as they traveled too often to have an in-real-life house. Aya sadly (for us!) moved again to Kyoto last Spring. No doubt she brought the sculpture with her as she said, “That’s our house that we can live in mentally, not physically, and bring everywhere.”

To me, this sentiment is how I feel when looking at Iwata’s works. A reminder that a home is a feeling that can be built in our imaginations.

House with yellow roof by Michik oIwata installed in a white wall hanging frame in the Iwatas' annex gallery
Artist Michiko Iwata in her home

You can view our latest collection of collage houses and installations by Michiko Iwata here.

Written by Angélique Chmielewski

Angélique Chmielewski

November 30, 2021

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