Work of the Week: Featuring Chihiro Ishikawa


The Independent follows up with a student’s progress in an oil painting course that went remote this semester

Chihiro Ishikawa is a rising senior in Kirkland House pursuing a double concentration in Sociology and East Asian Studies. She has always been intrigued by the question of how to effectively mobilize social change—particularly in the context of feminist movements in East Asia—and as a long-standing art lover herself, has always believed in the potential of the arts in moving people’s hearts. Chihiro was able to explore this question further through an introductory oil painting course offered in the spring, where she was faced with the challenge of how to creatively incorporate conceptual meaning into her paintings—whether that be by depicting the ephemeral ambience of a dying cherry blossom tree through broad, breezy brushstrokes or by thrusting a dire social question at the viewer through a raw and visual sketch of personal emotions. While this was her first time learning how to paint, Chihiro hopes to incorporate styles and lessons she gained from the class onto her watercolor paintings or sketches, which she does for fun in her free time. 

Courtesy of Chihiro Ishikawa.

(Untitled) This was my first in-class painting. The theme for that week was light and shadow, and we were all told to try to depict a figure in the studio with only one color. I chose a llama head facing the ceiling, and it was a fascinating experience seeing how many different colors can come out of the color red. The constraint of having to stick to one color was like a puzzle and excited me. 

(Untitled) This was another assigned still painting of objects in the studio, but I added my subjective interpretations of the colors I saw in front of me. For example, there were so many mixed and complex shades of white in the fabric I saw (or wished to see) that added nuance to material. Texture was a difficult puzzle in depicting this piece—how do you convey the heaviness of the lid? What about its glossiness? How does that interact with the soft fabric that surrounds it? All of these questions required different skills. Distinguishing the materiality of objects requires a keen eye and close looking, but positioning objects within the broader context of their surroundings and their relationship with one another is a question that deals much more with the metaphysical.

Header Image:Life in Quarantine” — My experience with time and space during quarantine depicted through three slices of frozen, captured moments in time.