Mio Ebisu has explored material process, making home-made paint from raw materials and plants during the AAUK virtual residency with a Mentor Alastair Gordon
The subject of botany is from my fascination with plants and their powerful history. Plants are not just pleasant creatures, humans have been using their toxicity created from their defence systems for medicine, dye, clothes, resin, and addictions such as drugs, tobacco and coffee. I aim to bring these as metaphors and symbolism into my compositional narratives. Especially the Opium War in the mid-19th centuries triggered the exploration of the history of plants and humans. My passion for colour led me to explore making my own paints. This is strongly inspired by European Medieval manuscripts and oil paints from the 15th centuries, who's colour has not faded and is still fresh and vivid, more than any other later works. During the AAUK residency, I have discussed studying and researching pigments and methodologies of these old traditions, and bringing a deeper connection between material and nature into my creative practice.
I felt strongly that I am too far from independent during the lockdown. Therefore I had a strong desire to be able to make my own paints with raw ingredients and materials from my surroundings. I believed that it connects my painting practice to the land as well as a history of the human culture in art and craft. At the same time, I was into plants. The starting point of my fascination with the plants was from medieval herbal manuscripts. They contain ancient medical treatment, alchemy, folklore and mythologies. I was aiming for finding a way to combine those interests in my practice.
In the first mentoring session, I talked to my mentor Alastair about my works, recent interests and prospect. I was given a broad area of creative and productive advice such as analyses, critics, feedback, books, related artists, his professional technological and theoretical knowledge and the history of the paints. The session helped me to see objectively my thoughts to analyse my subjects for further development. Simply I was excited to talk about plants, paints and pigments which gave me a positive impact on my creative prospect.
For the paint making, I used dry pigments and linseed oil as the first step. While I was researching plants, I started being fascinated by the richness of their ecosystem. In particular, the "toxins" that plants possess. They were developed in the process of evolution to protect themselves from enemies for their immobile bodies. They are used as "medicines" by humans in ancient herbalism and modern medical treatment such as morphine. Even more, they are used for dying, housing, clothing also paintings such as Gum Arabic, Turpentine, Linseed oil, cotton and linen for canvases. The toxins can be drugs and addictions such as opium, cocaine is protected by law to grow which shows how plants contain strong chemicals. If I know plants and their usage, it leads me to touch on the long history of humans and nature. I had started self-studying plants identification so that I could identify plants in the local area.
Plants and pigments making are alchemy and natural chemistry. I believe that painting is a medium to understand those materials so they are closely related. We discussed the characteristics of pigments, their function, techniques, and further prospects.
I was advised to look for artists such as Jordan Castel and Caroline Walker how they make the process of making the painting and explore painting techniques such as Underpainting to enhance the colour and add layered harmony in paintings.
Outcome and further development after the residency
After the 2nd mentorship session, I have been continuing my research about making paints and plants. I have also started making ink from foraged stones. Collect and break them into small pieces, grind and mixed with the binder. All processes are sacred and the paints keep recalling me of the place and timeless connections. As well as I have started foraging wild edible plants from the local area. Surprisingly there are many edible plants in London also deadly toxic plants as well. For example, I find Hemlock everywhere. Hemlock is known for a deadly plant that killed Greek philosopher Socrates.
My next project is to make an illustrated plant reference book and foraged paint making. This project is fortunately funded by artist membership organization 'A-N' that Alastair recommended me to join in the 1st session. I am very grateful to participate in this residency, the mentorships led me to find my direction and this gave me the biggest impact on my practice.
Mio Ebisu is a Japanese painter based in London. Her paintings create dream-like botanical landscapes drawing inspiration from sources such as folklore, mythologies, herbalism and the obscure boundary moment between landscape and identity.
Mio studied at Wimbledon College of Arts graduating in the UK in 2019 and Musashino Art University in Tokyo in 2012. Since her graduation from UAL she has lived in London and has a studio in SET art studio Lewisham.
Her paintings are deeply connected to Eastern art forms such as scroll painting, ink, Ukiyoe and manga culture. She has never stopped exploring the possibilities for merging these visual culture styles into modern painting. Her bold colours, deconstructed figurative and immediate brush strokes lead audiences into their own cheerful and personal view of the landscape. She is granted by Arts Council England Developing Your Creative Practice 2021-2022, and A-N a-n Artist Bursaries: Time Space Money 2022.