Born in Nagoya, Japan, Kyoto Ibe has earned a reputation as one of Japan’s leading artists with her large-scale installations of washi or traditional Japanese paper as well as for her large scale installations, costume and stage sets, and lighting designs.
Ibe studied at the Kyoto Institute of Technology and received her Masters degree in 1967. She was one of the first artists to incorporate traditional Japanese paper into her art in the 1960s. Her work garnered acclaim in the 1970s. Combining conventional materials with modern techniques, her work has brought washi from the sphere of arts and crafts to that of contemporary art. Because of her, washi paper has succeeded in reemerging as an art media.
The ancient Japanese believed that divine spirits were present in paper. Ibe maintains such respect, stating that while the functional role of paper has diminished in modern times, the aesthetic role of paper is more apparent and has succeeded in reemerging as an art media.
Appropriating old handmade paper and handwritten documents, Ibe recycles them into new forms of washi. The ink of the original remains embedded in the fibers of the paper, so that the new paper is uniquely variegated with shades of gray and is intrinsically connected to the past with her “visualizing the rebirth of a past era.”
In 1987, Ibe received an Isadora Duncan Visual Design Award. In 2009, she was selected to be a Cultural Ambassador by the Agency of Cultural Affairs of Japan.