Setsuko Aihara was born and raised in Japan, and began drawing and painting in her mid-30s while continuing her university teaching career. She worked in Honolulu, Cambridge (Massachusetts), and Cork (Ireland), and now lives in Vienna. After taking a course in painting in the Venetian method, she has since then been self-taught.
As a member of society she is concerned to understand the human condition, and to express images from what she understands or does not understand. Images often come from her dreams. Her concerns range from the philosophical and depth-psychological, and cultural (synthesis of east and west), through the social, environmental, and political (especially the liberation of women), to human emancipation in general.
She is interested in narrative and allegorical paintings, especially the kinds developed in the Renaissance and the Baroque periods, which can still be viable today, since the mythical patterns underlying human behavior don’t significantly change over time.
She is also interested in creating portraits of people, as actors of dramas at various levels. She is deeply moved by the best portraits from the Renaissance period, especially by Titian’s, through which one can feel the presence of the person across a distance of five centuries. Portrait painting fascinates her because it offers the possibility of portraying the sitter’s inner being, not just a record of the person’s appearance. The face is like a doorway to the person, and the eyes windows to the soul.
On method: Setsuko is fascinated by the depth and translucency of the oil paintings created by the Old Masters using their time-consuming methods involving multiple layering and glazing. Admiring the incomparable colors and profound expressiveness of the Venetian paintings, she chose to paint using the Venetian method.
On skills: Painting continues for Setsuko to demand a high degree of skill and craft. The time spent in developing the necessary skills is validated by the expressive power they can achieve.
On structure or composition: This is crucial for art works in whatever medium. Setsuko takes time to learn from studying the composition of past masterpieces, and also the structure of literary, theatrical and musical works. She works out the composition of each painting carefully after the idea is conceived and relevant studies and readings are completed.
Art isn’t over and done with in the postmodern period, since the works of the past can continue to move us and enhance our understanding of the human condition and the world we live in. It’s up to the artist whether we can keep art and culture alive so that they can continue to enrich our lives.