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Ibuki Kuramochi: A cultural bridge from Japan to the world

By Nancy Green

Multimedia Artist Ibuki Kuramochi specializes in artworks for exhibition; and also in live performances combining her live painting and her Japanese butoh dance.

Born in 1990 in Gunma Prefecture, Ibuki’s paintings utilize themes including nature, the animal world in opposition with the human world, and eroticism.

In addition to her performances and exhibitions in various Japanese cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Sapporo, Ibuki has recently concentrated on promoting her works to the world stage.

She performed live paint and dance at six different stages at Japan Expo in Paris, which was attended by almost 250,000 people in July 2016. Due to her favorable audience reaction, she was invited back to Paris in April 2017 for her solo art exhibition and live paint and dance performance tour for one month.

In September 2017, Ibuki was invited to Taiwan for her successful solo art exhibition and live paint and dance performance at Little MOCA Art Gallery. In 2018, she auditioned for, and was accepted by, the prestigious Los Angeles Art Association as a member.

Nowadays, Ibuki is becoming more and more popular, not only in her home country of Japan, but around the world.

You are a painter and also a butoh dancer. How did you start each one, and how and why did you start doing them together?

When I was a little kid, I was already interested in painting. But the first time that I felt incredibly moved by art was when I was 12 years old and I went to a temple in Nara with my family. I saw, and was deeply impressed with, “Silk Road” (a series of paintings by Japanese painter Ikuo Hirayama).

At that moment, I traveled The Silk Road through his paintings, and I could feel Hirayama’s powerful soul and strong spirit. At that time, I dreamed that I would someday become a great artist who would make powerful art like Hirayama.

When I grew up, I went to an art college in Tokyo and I studied contemporary art. While a student, I did a live painting performance at Design Festa, which is one of the most popular art events in Tokyo. It was my first live paint show. I used black and white acrylic, and I made a huge painting that was almost 4.5 meters. So many people saw my live painting and I received many compliments.

After I graduated from art college I did a lot of live painting performances at my solo art exhibition and art performance events. In one of the art performance events, I collaborated with a dancer, and I was impressed with the combination of painting and dancing. I thought that if I could dance like this, my live painting performance would be more exciting and impressive to the audience.

Then I remembered that I went to an exhibition in Tokyo of the Irish-British painter, Francis Bacon. At that exhibition, a video was shown of butoh dance. butoh is a modern and unique Japanese dance form. This was the first time that I had seen butoh, and it impressed me tremendously.

I searched for the best butoh teacher in Japan. I found the Kazuo Ohno Butoh Dance Studio in Yokohama. It is being run by Yoshito Ohno, the son of Kazuo Ohno. Kazuo Ohno (with Tatsumi Hijikata was the creator of the butoh dance form which started in 1959, and he is known as “The Soul of Butoh.” I studied with Ohno, and I was immediately impressed with butoh, and I felt a connection to my soul. Soon afterwards, I started to combine live painting with butoh dance.

When I am performing in front of a crowd to music, the collaborating instruments influence my drawing and dance, allow me to feel the mood of my surroundings and make it one with the audience’s. The novel blend of movement, music and painting is my way of encapsulating the spirit of performance art.


When I researched you, the key word that kept coming up often when people described you was " unique". What do you think is your unique point?

Because my style of art, plus doing live paint together with butoh dance, and my choice of makeup and costumes, I am considered unique. There are not many artists doing what I do. Not only outside of Japan, but also in Japan. Also, my name, Ibuki, is unique because not many people have my name. “Ibuki” is my real name and actually this is unisex name. When I am performing and making art pieces, my feeling is like very neutral. This is a very important thing for the arts.

How/where do you get the inspiration for your paintings?

My main inspirations come from nature, Japanese culture, and Shintoism. I was born in Gunma which is in the countryside and close to mountains. I often saw and felt the spirits from the beautiful nature there. I was always looking for the inspiration, even when walking I could find so many things from nature. For example, the beautiful green color of rice plants, insects chirping, the clear air in the morning time, etc

About Japanese culture, my favorite novel ”In Praise of Shadows” (by Japanese famous author Junichiro Tanizaki) is about beautiful things of Japanese culture and wabisabi. When I went out side of Japan for exhibition and performance events, I always brought this novel because it is one of the major inspirations of my art.

Shintoism taught me so many new things. For example, I often use the theme “SPIRIT”. Shintoism teaches that everything has a spirit. Not only humans, animals, birds, fish...but also the ground, water, air, plants, and even hair.

Back to my countryside story, to feel something from everywhere and everything, that is also Shintoism. I would like to create individual, unique and beautiful things.

You have exhibited and performed at many prestigious venues all over Japan, and also in Paris, Italy, Australia and Taiwan. Why were you interested in exporting your talents to foreign countries?

Because I love the world, people, and to learn about different of cultures. Also, because of my love and passion for Japanese art, culture and butoh dance, I wanted to be a bridge to promote these things to the world. Doing live paint/dance and exhibiting my art at Japan Expo in Paris, which was attended by more than 250,000 people in 2016, was an amazing and emotional experience for me. I was able to introduce Japanese culture to so many people. It opened up the world to me, and me to the world.

Going outside of Japan taught me many things about art and life, and also gave me more inspiration. Mixing those new feelings with Japanese culture, helped me to make new, interesting and powerful art.

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