Art Exhibition That’s Music To Your Ears by Nishiki Sugawara-Beda

Art Exhibition: Tonality

In March 2019, Execute Project gallery opened its first art exhibition that features works by Nishiki Sugawara-Beda. In the art exhibition titled “Tonality,” paintings and sculpture installation have been presented by artist. It is the first exhibition out of the four planned for the year and it is currently holding in the space created. Through her work, Nishiki Sugawara-Beda explores the power of mark-making—a spiritually engaged mark-making. Nishiki consciously applies marks, create forms and patterns that represent her mindless state of mind and emotions. See below what Nishiki has to say about her art exhibition, inspiration and process.


When I was completing my sculptural installation, I looked at it for a long time at the Execute Project space. The flow, volume, formation, height, airlines, pattern, space, and tempo… The word tempo clicked in my mind and started viewing my sculptural installation as a musical composition. They also looked like a sheet music as if each sculpture piece is playing the role of a musical note.

So, when I was imagining the tunes for the music, first I wanted to feel the tone of the sounds that I am hearing from the sculptural installation. In fact, there are a few tones that I sensed myself and it offers different tones with various time of the day, etc. These would vary from myself to others. Therefore, this became my title, Tonality.

Importance of Materials

Each sculpture is made of mesh wire as a structural foundation to form a Mobius strip, then strips of rice paper were carefully applied with rice glue (papier-mâché). The wire supports the Mobius strip to retain its shape and papier-mâché reinforces the stability. Seals were stamped on small piece of papers and applied on top of the surface of the strip. The meanings of the seals, the contents of the characters, revolves around the communications/relationships among us as human being.
While the wire keeps its form, it also offers the appearance of a grid system which not only adds a visual complexity but also refers to practicing papers for young leaners of Japanese and Chinese characters.

Making The Installation

This installation was a challenge. Each venue offers some challenges, spatially and logistically. For this specific venue, I imagined this installation to be a wall piece, but still hanging from the ceiling. My initial idea was to install sculptures in such a way that they look like waterfalls. But the idea was quickly turned down by the logistics of the hanging system that I created. I couldn’t stack them vertically more than three sculptures at any point. However, because of this limitation, they started to form musical notations on the wall.

Another challenge was the use of the blank space of the wall. I treated this sculpture as a wall piece, like a painting, which meant that the wall itself needed to be viewed as a canvas. Lighting also acted as a painting tool.

Thinking Process

Actually, the sculpture has jumped out from my painting, when I was trying to see the spirit of a word in a tangible form. I am glad that this was asked, because after installing the sculptural installation at this exhibition venue, various ideas started forming. One of the ideas that I acted upon was to paint in reaction to the sculptural installation in the same space. I painted a large sheet of paper (about 4 x 9 feet) on the floor in front of the work as if to add calligraphy to parallel the sculptural installation. The two pieces echo each other, providing space for the tonal waves to move in between them. I want the viewer to become the conduit for the sculpture and the calligraphy to sing to each other.
This process opened up my approach to mark making as I tried to incorporate various techniques in order to create genuine yet uncontrolled brushstrokes. I have not finished this painting, but I am excited to continue with this approach.


As Japanese children, we were exposed to Sumi-ink from early age, even before entering grade school. It was not a main medium to write or draw, but it certainly had a special space for the Japanese school curriculum, and still does.
When I desire to be the “real me” (authentic), I want to use the materials that brings out my cultural heritage. The Sumi-ink is the perfect medium to do so.
It is interesting that you asked how I feel when I use Sumi-ink. I chose Sumi-ink for several reasons. I like the feel of the ink. I like the smell of the ink. I like a wide variety of (black) tones that I can see in the ink. I like the wonder that I have when I paint with the ink, the wonder of the process of making the ink. I like how it beautifully ties with my concept and the material. There are so many “likes.”
So, when I think of how I feel when I use the ink, I think of the word, neutral. I feel that the ink allows me focus on what I am painting. It does not require me to be a certain way, nor to bring the baggage of the western history of painting into my painting process. It simply allows me to be “me,” who was born and raised in Japan. Therefore, when I think of how I feel when I use Sumi-ink, it is almost like taking the weight off of my shoulders and being free to make marks on the surface.

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