By: Satoko Takahashi, Intermediate Interior Designer Hager Design International Inc.
Ever since the day I learned to hold a pencil, I fell in love with art. The typical stories you hear about a child drawing on walls and furniture was a staple story my parents used to share with their friends about me. It escalated to a point where I was drawing on antique furniture and, well you can guess how that turned out.
However, drawing and painting to me was never just about making marks on a paper or seeing pretty colours come together on a canvas. I moved to Canada at a young age and at the time I did not know how to compose a single English sentence. There were definitely a lot of gestural communications, but I realized expressing feelings and experiences were limited in a conversation where words were converted to a random wave of a hand. Until one day I learned a valuable lesson that art speaks in a universal language. I depicted a simple heart hoping to uplift a friend who I knew was in pain. (Do you remember those times when messages were passed on a folded sheet paper rather than texting on a phone?) I told her that I care without having to speak or write a single word. The moment I saw her smile I knew my message was understood. While language was a barrier, I realized my drawings were able to express my feelings and speak to many people. Art was a powerful tool that gave me a voice.
Before the emergence of the digital art world, it was typically the scenes of everyday life that artists depicted onto their materials of choice. You could say they were visual diaries or records of significant moments. I had wondered what all the prolific artists had in common? It was that they all had their own unique signature style. Picasso with his cubism - as if he had reflected a scene on a mirror and dropped it to let it shatter in hundreds of pieces - or Van Gogh with his brush strokes that allows you to feel the movement of the night’s wind. You can always spot a Caravaggio with his play of shadows that deepened its mysteriousness. Their artworks not only convey stories but conjure emotions to the spectators because of their styles. Their depictions of a typical afternoon can be seen happier, melancholy, or perhaps even crazy. Inspired by these masters, I went on a journey to discover my own style for my desire to not only share my stories but also for viewers to feel. I followed what they did by capturing a moment of my day and converted them into forms of art that represented my style.
What makes our lives enriched with meaning is in part due to our cultural identities; growing up in Canada gave me the opportunity to explore a vast cultural profile. One of the most curious notions I found is that cultures vary in ways of depicting something of value. One would put on a spotlight so that there are no confusions to the audience to recognize its worth from any angle you look at. Whereas in another, it would hide it to allow what is worth to shine on its own. This secondary notion has been beautifully captured in one of my favorite quotes by Junichiro Tanizaki:
“And surely you have seen, in the darkness of the innermost rooms of these huge buildings, to which sunlight never penetrates, how the gold leaf of a sliding door or screen will pick up a distant glimmer from the garden, then suddenly send forth an ethereal glow, a faint golden light cast into the enveloping darkness, like the glow upon the horizon at sunset. In no other setting is gold quite so exquisitely beautiful... until that moment had only a dull, sleepy luster, will, as you move past, suddenly gleam forth as if it had burst into flame.” - In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki
Recognizing that things are depicted and perceived differently depending on a culture made me realize that stories in my art can be interpreted in ways other than mine depending on the audience. This discovery to me was not a hindrance but rather fascinating.
Whether it be a different form of art like culinary, crafts, or even lifestyle, it is like a painted artwork, the viewers can weave through layers of cultural identity as they would with layers of colours. All artforms are intricately intertwined to voice an identity of a single culture. Among these, one of the types of voices that speaks the loudest is architecture. My travelling experiences have taught me how these intertwined cultural art forms are evident in the details of architectural designs. On the outside, architecture is a statement, while on the inside it is a framed realm, a gallery, a void that not only tells stories but immerses the audience to be part of the artwork. With both culture and architecture, my devotion to art grew beyond the boundaries of a sheet of paper.
Architecture is a union between engineering and art, and to me it defines the word design. It has the same powerful ability as painted artwork: to move a person emotionally. It was the compilations of these discoveries that paved my way into the profession of interior design. Though I feel attracted to the striking first encounter of a building’s exterior, it is the interior design that makes my connection and experience with buildings stronger; where designs are formed and perceived on a more human scale. From the choices of materials to the ways the spaces are designed influences the way one feels and moves within. The interaction between the user and the designed space to me is a conversation between an audience and an art. Formerly, I would take my camera to capture ephemeral moments and use them as my inspiration for my paintings. But today I do the same to also create experiential artworks that are functional spaces with stories that are not only felt but where the users of the space become the spec of gold Junichiro made references to. Different styles are always considered in my strive to create works that conjure a unique essence for each project. Art that once gave me the ability to ease a friend’s pain, I use it now with a careful consideration of culture, to make one’s experience in a designed space a positive one.
Despite the emergence of technology in the interior design industry, hand drawing is still and will always be an integral part of our practice. Studies of details are best done by drawing as it allows our hand to physically take focus on areas that are easily missed by only seeing. It is one of the most reliable tools to not only explore and collect ideas but also to allow us to instantly communicate with other designers. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Satoko Takahashi is an intermediate designer at Hager Design International Inc. She has a Masters Degree in Interior Design and is a passionate studier of design and an artist of the world. Satoko can be reached at email@example.com.