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BELFAST – Celebrating the interrelationships within the natural world is a central theme in the work of Japanese-born artist Ayano Matsumae. Matsumae was at the opening of his exhibition, “Ten eN” on October 24 at the Smudge Studio Observatory in Belfast. His works, some of which were created during the opening, will be exhibited until November 19.

“My work is very instinctive and natural,” Matsumae said. “It creates bonds in nature, and we are part of those bonds.”

Matsumae’s work includes photographs printed on natural paper and exposed to sunlight, and the enso, or zen circle, which she created in public for the first time at the October 24 opening.

Matusumae caught the eye of Observatory co-owner Elizabeth Ellsworth in New York.

“I was sitting in a Zen circle and watching this woman,” Ellsworth said of Matsumae. “We had been coming here every day for weeks. One day we talked to each other and became friends.

Much of Matsumae’s exhibit at the Observatory is photographic. She takes pictures of the natural world – driftwood, a stand of birch trees, a shoreline – with a vintage camera.

The photographs are presented on large format albumen prints. The albumin test is a test made from egg whites. The photographs are then exposed to the sun.

Ayano Matsumae’s photograph is fixed to a print made of egg whites and exposed to sunlight. Photo by Jim Leonard

“Sometimes it takes two days to fully expose the photos,” Matsumae said. “Sometimes it takes two weeks.” Matsumae’s photograph is displayed along with his poetry.

The New Jersey resident created the last piece of her exhibition during the opening at the Observatory. Using a zen, or enso, circle on the studio floor, the artist used her hands to fashion a design on the circle with locally collected materials.

Matsumae says that creating the enso depends on instinct.

“I move the materials around the circle,” Matsumae said. “I try not to think but to act by instinct. I get out of my mind and stop moving when my body tells me to. The circle made at the Observatory is the first time the artist has created the enso in public.

Artist Ayano Matsumae completes his enso creation at the opening of his exhibition at the Belfast Observatory. Photo by Jim Leonard

The exhibit is accompanied by a video, shot by Matsumae, of nature scenes designed to highlight interrelationships in the natural world.

“I celebrate the transitions of all things,” she said. “Everything in nature is in transition and interdependent.”

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