The drawings were created during a residency I undertook at Villa Kujoyama, during the late Summer and Autumn of 2012, in a hillside workshop on the edge of a forest in the east of Kyoto. The residency was for a project related to the Urushi lacquer process. Yet while there, I quickly began an intense period of drawing, an activity in which I was completely autonomous, the sole master of my decisions, without the need for external expertise.

Using a bottle of ink and medium quality brushes I had bought at one of the famous 100-yen shops, I would draw daily, through the uncomfortable heat and humidity of the summer, until the first significant signs of winter began. Little by little, I familiarised myself with the technique, and after much trial and error began a series of drawings that ended up forming a kind of theoretical Kyoto landscape. I drew the Kamo River, the five sacred hills, the full moon Tsukimi festival, a red vermilion Torii gate that marked the entrance of the sanctuaries, and then finally came the monkeys.

I had primarily concerned myself with the natural elements of the landscape and not living beings. So I drew them rather unexpectedly, like the monkeys themselves when they would suddenly appear in the early morning or late afternoon down a section of the hill. Sneaking out of the freshness of the forest, they would suspiciously search for food. I drew the series of monkeys three days before my departure, spontaneously, with fast intuitive gestures. It was as in an emergency, after I had realised they were a singular and constituent element of the Kyoto landscape, and one which had marked me.

I did not seek to produce realistic portraits, but to produce signs that can primarily express their animality. Also, their different personalities that I had noticed when I observed them in silence. Some seemed sympathetic, or more aggressive, or thoughtful, or questioning, some joyful or rather sad. They were all features of their singularity, so remarkably similar to ourselves.

Pierre Charpin, April 2016.

See the series here →