An Artist

Printmaker Hidemi Momma
reflects on her time in Halifax

As a student at Musashino Art University, printmaker Hidemi Momma used to spend four hours commuting between Urayasu in Chiba Prefecture and Kokubunji in western Tokyo. The trips gave her time to reflect on her many school projects, and proved instrumental in establishing the direction that her work would take.

“I was constantly looking out at the landscapes from the train window, so I realized that focusing on landscapes as my subject material made perfect sense. And from the train, my line of sight was higher than it would have been if I were walking. From that perspective, the sky would seem even more spacious, and I could look down at buildings,” she explained, while speaking at a Yokohama gallery, where she was exhibiting.

Silkscreens by Hidemi Momma (left to right): Still Water, 2013; The Lake in Early Summer, 2018; Water Surface, 2013

In fact, even though she now depicts landscapes from around the country, many of the prints she creates are square, a visual reference to those train windows from which she once spent so much time looking.

Momma was drawn to woodblock printing after seeing the work of the well-known printmaker Hasui Kawase (1883–1957), but it was through her coursework that she began learning about silk screening. It was the medium’s colours and texture, that reminded her a bit of oil painting, which appealed to her from the start.

Her work is characterized by a use of colour that can be both bold and subtle, and a careful attention to light, and to water’s many forms. She has shown at many galleries and in many shows around the country, but one of her greatest supporters is the College Women’s Association of Japan (CWAJ), which is known for its annual print show that features the work of both established and up-and-coming artists.

In 2009, Momma applied to exhibit at the CWAJ Print Show. She was accepted — and honoured with the CWAJ’s 5th Young Printmaker Award.

In the years that followed, Momma exhibited at many CWAJ Print Shows, and she later was named to the 2nd CWAJ Artist-in-Residence Program, which gave her the opportunity to travel to Canada and experience entirely new landscapes. From July to October of 2013, she studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) in Halifax.

While Momma was at the university, she was struck by a number of things. The first was her physical surroundings: “I thought that the light was very different … In Tokyo, buildings and architecture play such an important role in the landscape. But in Nova Scotia, there were huge hills and forests. It was a place that was very close to nature, and that was really part of its charm when compared with Tokyo.”

Something else she noticed was a greater sense of stretching out: “Our teachers would tell us, when you go to different places, you should use a different, flexible approach that works well with that specific environment. Then, rather than being very particular about sticking to one approach, it is important to adapt your technique to different locations … My way of thinking and creating art changed a lot because of that.”

Finally, she recalls the closeness that she felt with her fellow students and the warmth of her host country: “Some of my most memorable experiences were presenting my own exhibition, giving a workshop and sharing an artist’s talk. Having that kind of communication with my classmates, even though I wasn’t very good at English, was wonderful … Any time I was having trouble with anything my fellow students helped me out. I really got a feeling of how friendly Canadians could be and that made a big impression on me.”

Momma still maintains some of the connections that she made at NSCAD, and she keeps the lessons she learned in Nova Scotia — and some of the landscapes — alive in her work.