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Voice on paper

Voice on paper is a technique Navarro developed when returning to her home town in Japan, 20 years after being literally ejected by the Kobe earthquake. On this specific travel grant to Japan, Navarro arranged to work with Fukuda-san, one of the last living masters of suminagashi.

‘Suminagashi’, or ‘floating ink’, consists of placing concentric circles of ink on the surface of water, and then transferring these markings onto paper. Although Fukuda-san carefully blows or fans the inks into a desired pattern, Navarro replaces the breath with sound often using onomatopoeia as a source to visualize the materiality of words.



“Language is the architecture that shapes our interaction with the world around us, providing reference points, defining lines and points of contact. Language is alchemy (verbum significatum), able to transform the vibration of a thought seed into matter,” visual artist Cadine Navarro wrote in her recent artist’s book 40 Things I’ve Learned. In her poem, Navarro (Kobe, Japan, 1977) merges several recurring recent motives in her artistic oeuvre, which is informed by diverse cultural influences and notions of connectedness. In an impressive ongoing body of work, titled Voices on Paper, or Language Maps, she captures the vibrations of spoken language in poetic, marble-like ink drawings on Japanese paper. “If we consider how repeated word-sounds can affect neural activity in the brain, change therefore starts with the words we use.”


Excerpt from ‘A Peripatetic Journey’, Cadine Navarro in conversation with Roel Arkesteijn, 2017