Studio Visit: Masao Hanawa | Salon Tokyo!

Masao Hanawa stands in front of his mural "Seven Samurai" painted for Toho Studios, Tokyo*

I recently returned from a trip to Tokyo where I participated in a unique event known as "the Salon."  Each year in a different city,  decorative painters and muralists from all over the world gather to exhibit their work, demonstrate techniques for each other and the public, exchange ideas, and of course, party.  Salon Tokyo 2013 was brilliantly hosted by the fabulous Yaeko Kurimata, my friend and colleague on the other side of the Pacific, whose studio I visited in 2009.
my exhibit panels for Salon Tokyo featured a Yomuiri Giants (Tokyo) baseball player and Toshiro Mifune from the Kurasawa film "Seven Samurai" painted on copper-gilt canvas.
Though I have not attended Salon in some years, I do credit this annual event with having introduced me to some great comrades-in-paint, among them Pascal Amblard, Alison Woolley, Lucretia Moroni, Karl GroissenbergerNiels Jongdahl and so many others!

East Meets West in Niels Jongdahl's' masterful trompe l'oeil painting.

In a business that can be terribly competitive, closed, and often lonely and demoralizing, Salon participants tend to be open, appreciative, happy to share, willing to argue, and above all supportive of each others art practice,  which I believe comes from the assured confidence of someone who really knows their craft and loves their work.
So here I have just hung my panels at the Salon exhibition space, feeling generally humbled, when I caught sight of this painting:

Masao Hanawa's monumental self-portrait. The beautiful ornamental panels to the left are by Jean-Luc Sablé

and fell instantly and desperately in art-love with it, and incidentally with whomever is responsible for painting it.  This is my kind of painting:  surreal-scaled, detailed, a bit unconventional, and beautifully painted. I was stunned and elated while fellow painters gathered around it, arguing about how it was painted and with what medium or tools.
Masao Hanawa demonstrating at Salon Tokyo

Then behind me I heard Masao Hanawa speaking, in fluent Italian, with Stefano Luca (another fantastic painter, beyond all belief) at which point I basically sputtered some complimenti and ran outside to calm down.  (Understand for an agoraphobic person such as myself that I am already on threat level orange in a frenetic city like Tokyo, so I must run and hide fairly frequently.)

The next day I found Masao-san painting a  Boucher-esque panel of cherubs and worked up the nerve to talk to him. He showed me his portfolio which features a gigantic ~80 foot high mural (see above) of the Seven Samurai painted on an exterior wall of Toho Studios,  (are you sensing a theme here?) and from there we had a very easy conversation which continued throughout the week and revealed many other shared interests.    
After Salon ended and the participants reluctantly parted ways, I had an extra day in town and was able to make a short visit to the Atelier Hanawa.
Large scale trompe l'œil by Masao Hanawa at Tokyo DisneySea Resort *
work in progress, tools, and light fill the large shop of Atelier-Hanawa, Tokyo
grisaille sample for the 7 Samurai mural repurposed as a screen

I like visiting the studios of other muralists when I travel- I find it gives me some insight into the process; what do we have in common (storage issues!) and what space-saving or cool tips can I pick up - or share?

Masao-san has painted enormous amounts of trompe l'œil and fresco-style murals for Tokyo DisneySea and many other commercial spaces as well as a masterful oil paintings in the Northern European tradition.  He also spent several years living in Genoa, Italy, painting and  restoring mural work there, and furthering his skills in classical European style painting.     
You should visit for many more stunning examples of his accomplished painting style.    

Trompe l'œil murals and grottesche ornament by Masao Hanawa *
some moments in the studio of Masao Hanawa, Tokyo
Masao Hanawa in his studio

further reading - more pictures:

Salon Forever

Atelier Hanawa website

Akira Kurasawa

Toshiro Mifune

SalonTokyo2013 @Flickr  more pictures from this amazing event

Lynne's previous posts about Japan
jib door is in the glossary!

images in this post by Lynne Rutter,  May 2013
except *  ©Masao Hanawa
click on images to view larger