BEAT, December 2005

Sachiko Furui can’t remember a time when art wasn’t part of her life. At the age of three, when most children are still learning how to wield a crayon, she possessed her own set of oil paints and was enrolled in lessons with a local teacher. “Ever since I can remember, I was fascinated with art,” the Japanese-born, Winchester-based Furui recalls. “Among the most memorable moments in my life are the times my father brought home art books. I loved reading them from cover to cover!” In this way she first encountered French cubist and noted colorist, Paul Cezanne, whom she describes as still her “all-time favorite.” Today her inspirations include Cezanne’s palette, traditional Japanese woodcut design, the landscape of her adopted country, and a decades old passion for “anything and everything art.” Combining these passions, Sachiko Furui has embarked upon her self-proclaimed life’s project: A series of woodblock prints entitled 100 Views of America.

As a girl in Osaka, Furui sought instruction in an impressive variety of artistic media - from ceramics to photography, from drawing to stained glass. Ultimately she eschewed school for a more mainstream path. “Although I knew all along that I was an artist,” she notes, “I studied Economics at Chou University, in Tokyo, to become an accountant like my father." However, Furui re-examined her enduring love for art and experienced an epiphany. “I realized that my interest in art was more than just a leisure pursuit,” she says. “I declared myself as an artist then, and the rest is history.”

In 1985, after a decade spent establishing herself as a painter in Japan - a time during which she exhibited her serene, free-flowing abstract works internationally - Furui moved to America. “I had the opportunity to travel all over the world in 1984 and the U.S was one of my favorite countries. A year later, I decided I needed a change and moved here to pursue my art career.” She chose Boston for its history and, ironically, for its weather, “I thought that New England had a similar climate to Osaka!” she smiles.

“When I first arrived in Boston, I thought of Hiroshige Ando a great deal,” Furui explains “He was an renowned nineteenth century Japanese artist who designed woodblock print series such as the 100 Views of Edo (Tokyo) and 63 Stations of the Tokaido Road. I came up with the idea of 100 Views of America because I wanted to show people my views of this land that was new to me like Hiroshige did back in Japan. I guess, too, that I had the hope of exploring this country, and the series was a good way to achieve that dream.”

Furui began her ambitious project with an icon of American history as her subject. In Old North Church, the structure’s main tower, from which those legendary lanterns signaled Paul Revere, rises to an acutely pitched white steeple and provides a vertical focal point for the 7x10.5” work. Closed shutters glimmer in the reflected gold of a high, round disc - whether sun or moon is purposely left ambiguous. Around the venerable church crowd evidence of urban modernity; multi-storied apartment and office buildings, streetlights, a basketball hoop.

Permeating the elegantly wrought piece is Furui’s strident use of color to create a singular twist on the traditional form. With a nod to Cezanne, she washes the church in pale celadon green. Its neighbors stand in shades ranging from deep olive to brilliant emerald with accents of cerise and bonze glittering from unexpected spots. Above and behind lies an expansive cobalt sky. “Color is the most important element in my work,” observes Furui, who sees these vibrant woodblock prints as an extension of her work as an abstract painter. “Color is everything. I am fascinated by the way colors co-exist with each other - the way they stay still, the way they move, and the way they change.”

Whether depicting a cityscape - as in Old North Church and Little Italy, Delaware - or a view of the wilderness - as in Mt. Adams and Williamstown, Massachusetts - each final design in Furui’s series is the result of a meticulous, many-stepped process. “I travel to different areas and draw many sketches of places that appeal to me,” Furui notes. “I always carry my sketchbook with me because I never know what kind of inspirational places will appear in front of me when I’m traveling. I might be moved by colors that I see or the way nature laid out a scene before me.” Selecting which drawings to pursue and incorporate into 100 Views of America is surprisingly simple and thoroughly subjective, however. “I choose the ones that grab me artistically.” Furui states.

Once the original sketch has been refined, a detailed color scheme is determined. “I dissect the finished drawing by color because the process of woodblock printing works by having different wooden blocks that are designated by color,” explains Furui. The actual drawing is then carved onto these wooden blocks. The flat, raised areas of each are reserved for those sections that are to be printed with a single specified color. Since only one color can be printed at a time, each image must undergo multiple printings before it is complete.

A “life project” is by definition a work in progress; and 100 Views of America currently includes thirty completed scenes, less than a third of its intended total. “I still have a long way to go and will continue to work on this series for a long time,” Furui patiently observes. Yet, after a lifetime dedicated to art, Sachiko Furui is determined; and her goal is clear: “I wish to enable the viewer to enjoy the beauty of the American landscape through the eyes of a Japanese artist now living in the United States.” Viewers of her work fervently wish her many more years to come.

Sachiko Furui currently is represented by the Verne Gallery, Cleveland, Ohio, as well as by galleries in New Hampshire, California, and Japan. For more information or to view prints in the 100 Views of America series, visit Samples of her work may be seen at the Verne Gallery site, as well.