Makoto Ofune was born in Japan in 1977. In 2000, he graduated from Kyoto University of Education, Department of Fine Art, with a major in Japanese-style painting. In 2001, he completed postgraduate research at his alma mater.
Ofune creates rich, luminous artworks by reinventing traditional modes of Japanese painting. Every element of his artwork is completely natural, created without any artificial chemicals or dyes. Through his use of traditional Japanese techniques, he is able to connect his practice to the rich cultural history that came before him.
Ofune begins his process by mounting custom-made Japanese hemp paper (called Ofune paper) onto a wooden frame using natural glue. He then uses an ancient method of pigment making, in which metal ores and gemstones (including cinnabar, azurite, and malachite) are crushed into richly hued powdered pigments called iwa enogu. Ofune uses an iron pestle and mortar to initially break apart the stones, and then switches to a ceramic pestle and mortar to crush these stones into smaller particles, which enhances the vibrancy of the color. These powder pigments are then mixed with a natural animal gelatin glue called nikawa in order to adhere the pigments to the paper. Ofune can only prepare small amounts of this combination as it must be applied to the paper before the glue cools and solidifies. When the glue sets, it adheres the pigments onto the paper, creating a three-dimensional artwork that maintains the texture of Ofune’s raw materials. He repeats this process over and over until he is able to achieve his desired color and texture.
This meticulous process of adding layer after layer of pigment to paper is meditative for the artist and imbues his work with a deep sense of spirituality. Ofune believes his process is equally as important as the finished work. In fact, Ofune considers the process to have begun long before he ever touches his materials. The colors of the stones he turns into pigments developed for years within the Earth, and the artist is constantly aware of the role nature plays in his art. He views himself as the bridge between nature and art, translating the power and mystery of the natural world onto paper and board. He aims to connect with the infinite through his artworks and encourages viewers to get lost in his dreamlike colorscapes.
Ofune currently lives and works in Shiga, Japan.