East Meets West — Naturally 

What: Naturally — Paintings by Theresa Mura and Barbara Hirano

Where: Upstairs Gallery at MY (Millennium) Place

When: Nov. 1-30, Opening reception Sunday, Nov. 7, 4-8 p.m.

Last spring sprung two new painters on the Whistler art community.

Barbara Hirano, made the not so long journey up the corridor from West Vancouver to check out a new scene.

And Theresa Mura, originally from Chicago, chose Whistler as her foray back into North American culture after 11 years living in Japan.

The pair are sharing November’s exhibit in the upstairs foyer gallery at MY Place, which they have titled Naturally.

Hirano’s works are the bolder contributions. Roughly textured plaster frescos betray a background in archaeology. Hirano’s portion of the exhibit also features oil paintings of local landscapes – a medium the painting and pottery instructor says she started exploring in depth after her recent relocation to Whistler.

The yang of Hirano’s bold West Coast landscape imagery is complemented by the yin Mura’s serene Japanese-style florals.

A graphic designer by trade, Mura says she "fell in love" with Japan and it’s culture on a trip to visit a friend in 1992.

"Before I knew it," she reflects, "11 years had gone by."

During those 11 years Mura resided on the island of Kyushu and studied traditional Nihon-ga painting with a private instructor. The precise technique uses a medium of mineral-based pigments mixed with hot water and special glue derived from animal or fish bones on silk or handmade paper called washi .

True to tradition, Mura learned to create her own delicate washi canvases for her own Nihon-ga works, a collection of which are exhibited for Naturally . The process requires a patient hand and a calm countenance, Mura confirms.

"If you do big, hard strokes you’re going to rip the paper, or it’s going to bead up on you," she said.

In addition to a delicate touch, Nihon-ga requires a precision knowledge of how to prepare the pigments.

"The medium is very temperamental," Mura explained. "You have to have it mixed exactly right, with the right portions of water to glue. If it’s wrong it either won’t adhere, or else there’s too much glue and things will crack. So it’s not a simple medium and it takes a long time to learn the technique let alone the culture behind it."

That culture included a unique mentor relationship with her instructor, described by Mura as "mother, sister, best-friend." She attributes her acceptance into the local "art circle" to the more relaxed culture of Kyushu, as opposed to the frantic pace of large Japanese urban centres like Tokyo. Over the course of her stay her work was involved in 20 different exhibitions in Japan.

"They immediately accepted me," Mura said. "I was very lucky about that."

Local artists who would like to learn the ancient technique will be happy to know Mura intends to teach Nihon-ga here in Whistler through Expressions Art Studio, where she currently works. However, she acknowledges it can be an expensive undertaking since all materials must be imported from Japan.

Those who simply want to appreciate the serenity of Mura’s Nihon-ga florals, will want to make sure and wander into MY Place to find an oasis of calm amidst an onslaught of November storms.

Hirano and Mura are hosting an opening reception for Naturally on Sunday, Nov. 7 from 4 to 8 p.m.

Welcome Dinner to feature community art project

Hirano’s artistic touch is all over Whistler this month. The artist is working with Whistler Community Services to create a 17-foot banner that will be laid out at the upcoming Jill Ackhurst Community Welcome Dinner on Nov. 20 at the Telus Conference Centre.

The annual event helps connect newcomers with more established residents to foster community spirit. Dinner attendees will be encouraged to contribute their mark on the banner, which will be displayed in the Village Square.

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