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Al Gunther

Nature and natural shapes and forms have always particularly inspired me. They are what have drawn me to Japanese art for most of my life. I feel that the Japanese Art style is the most elegant way to express and celebrate the themes in nature. To be surrounded by things that are visually pleasing brings me peace and satisfaction, and I feel the need to bring nature into my visual space by creating my own art that emulates the Japanese style. I also love to work with my hands.  Like an engineer, I use various machines, experiment with chemistry and materials and use and develop new techniques to make my creations. In doing so, I hope to honor the dedication to craftsmanship the Japanese exhibit in everything the make and do. These ideas are the driving forces for my creations.
When I encounter something in nature such as the wild angles and textures of trees, reflections in water, the color in leaves, the freedom and grace of birds, become the triggers for me to explore and design a new piece of art.  Like the Japanese approach to art reveres, my designs incorporate the aesthetics of poetic beauty of the imperfection of nature, subdued color, infused patina, implicit tension, balance and introspection. The designs are an emotional response to the "unexpected beauties" I encounter and a way to "collect" them which calms and enhances my visual space.
Choosing materials is a process of experimentation and evolution, like all experimentation, where I start is not always where I end up. I may start in one direction, and as the piece progresses, I might see something that points me in another. I always take the time to explore these new options which is exciting for me because it forces me to challenge myself. The resultant knowledge is invaluable, and bonds me even more inextricably to the work. It is the lingering essence each piece of art is a representative map of all my experiments.
Screens, scrolls and sculpture are traditional Japanese ways to present or display images. I also present my images in those forms  and use a variety of materials and processes for each project, some of which are traditional for japanese art. But I do not always use them in the same instances the Japanese artist might use them. Where paint, silk or fabric would be expected, I might use metal, glass and stone.  Where ivory, gold or wood might be the convention, I have created substitutions out of modern paints, modeling and/or casting materials. I also use natural found objects and re-purposed antiques which add a direct connection to nature and the past.
Ultimately, I make my art for myself. The satisfaction I get in transforming and recording my visual experiences into something steadfast and tangible is rewarding and comforting. The discoveries I make along the way are energizing. And to honor the beauty of  nature in the way the Japanese do so exquisitely is uplifting and poignant.

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