Japanese Artist Hiroko Lewis: The Creation Of Stunning Abstract Japanese Art



16th – 23rd November 2023

Forest Gallery are delighted to present the first Solo Exhibition with Hiroko Lewis titled ‘Kodama: Echoes From The Forest’. This thought provoking exhibition will include over 25 original works presented in our gallery space in Petworth, West Sussex and online.

Click below to register your interest and stay up to date on what is to come for this exciting event!


In light of the artist’s inaugural solo exhibition with Forest Gallery, we share an exclusive interview with the artist including snapshots of Hiroko Lewis painting. We gain an insight into Hiroko’s inspiration and processes for creating beautiful Japanese art.


1. About Japanese Artist Hiroko Lewis
2. Exploring Metal Leaf and Patination
2.1 Inside Hiroko’s Studio
3. Nature’s Inspiration in Japanese Art
4. Creating Semi-Abstract Art: Methods and Processes
5. Journey to Japanese Artist and Nurturing Creativity
6. KODAMA: Curating For An Exhibition

About Japanese Artist Hiroko Lewis

Hiroko Lewis is a Japanese artist based in Sussex who creates abstract mindscapes in mixed media. She graduated with a Fine Art degree from Kanazawa College of Art. From here she pursued a career as artist, porcelain pattern designer, and illustrator in Japan, where she exhibited widely, including at the prestigious National Art Centre in Tokyo. We asked Hiroko about the influence of her heritage in the creation of Japanese art:

What influence do you feel your Japanese heritage and college training has in your artwork?

“I still remember a lot of my professors’ advice at university and beyond. I used to be frustrated taking life-drawing classes day after day until a teacher told me I would one day “paint something invisible” and I realised it’s important to practice seeing the things in front of you.  Also, when you become skilled, don’t show off, it will kill your art. It’s related to zen.”

abstract painting with gold leaf by japanese artist Hiroko Lewis
‘Echo VI
25 x 13 inches

Hiroko Lewis explains how her Japanese heritage influences the creation of her artwork.

Exploring Metal Leaf and Patination

Hiroko has over the past decade honed her skills in the art of metal leafing and patination. Using a combination of these materials alongside oil paints, she is able to create unique artworks that change under the light. We asked Hiroko what draws her to these materials and unusual way of painting:

“I am fascinated by the glow of “haku” metal materials and patination which add extra dimensions and colours, allowing a degree of expression that normal paints cannot achieve. I ‘go with the flow’ of these chemical reactions to create patinas which are then integrated with oil paint and other traditional media to form a collaboration between unrestrained nature and control.”


Nature’s Inspiration in Japanese Art

The Great Wave off Kanagawa is one of the most recognised artworks by the Japanese artist, Katsushika Hokusai. Inspired by the power of nature and including the infamous Mount Fuji in the background, it is an early example of the influence of nature, specifically land and sea, in the creation of artwork from Japan. Within the works of Hiroko, we find similar references to nature as explained below and as seen in her artwork.

What is the inspiration for your painting?

“There are wonderful local woods and fields in my neighbourhood…it’s usually trees or other organic forms which catch my eye and let me push forward to start a painting.

During COVID, I felt more real, nearer to the nature close by. The quiet and lack of cars was startling, and I could hear birdsong again. I went for walks in the local woods every day, and it was inspiring. Since then, my painting has become more abstract; the local forests have been subsumed into my current work, which is on a larger scale both in context and in physical size.

Creating Semi-Abstract Art: Methods and Processes

Abstract artists invariably talk of their art as representations of ideologies or the result of a mindset. Paintings can be planned beforehand to set a tonal range, colour palette or compositional elements but the final artworks will often be a product of a changing journey, and one that cannot be predicted or premeditated. Hiroko Lewis is no exception to this as we found out when talking with the artist.

Would you describe your art as abstract?

“I say that my works are semi-abstract. I find the style is more communicative. I think we find some sort of shared sense through using a figurative form as a portal and invite viewers into the abstract space beyond that.

To what extent are your paintings the result of a pre-conceptualised image or finishing painting?

“My process isn’t premeditative. It is a mixture of envisaging and improvising. Also when I deal with patination, I take a chance with the organic changing flow of nature, as the process is unpredictable. That means I need to respond accordingly. It’s like playing a game of chess.” 

Journey to Japanese Artist and Nurturing Creativity

Holding creative talent is one thing, but really understanding, harbouring and exploring creativity is another. Artists often recall a time in their former years that served as the spark to ignite their passion and drive for creating art, and for Hiroko this came in the form of viewing the Mona Lisa.

“I remember that a few years after I first started oil painting aged 8, the Mona Lisa travelled to Japan. It was a sensational experience to see her face-to-face. It was the air she carries that has haunted me ever since.”

Just as a specific moment can ignite a passion for creativity, additional sensory inputs or emotive connections can continue to enhance it. For Hiroko this is music:

What helps your creativity process?

“Music without words. Music is totally abstract and has the power to change the present moment flow. I find lyrics somehow trigger my logical thought processes, so I tend to avoid them. I like to have ambient or solo instrumental classical music playing as I paint.”

KODAMA: Curating For An Exhibition

Curating an exhibition with a gallery is a pivotal moment for any artist. The opportunity to provide collectors with a full display of paintings under optimal lighting and in an accessible space encourages new avenues of creativity and dedication to the art.

Can you explain the title of the exhibition and what it means to you and your artwork?

“The theme of the exhibition is kodama. As with many Japanese concepts, it’s complex and difficult to explain in English, but I will try: Kodama has two meanings. It is firstly a spirit which inhabits trees, like a Greek dryad. It is also the Japanese word for echo. The reason comes from folklore. When ancient people heard an echo coming from a mountain, they believed it was the tree spirits in the valleys replying. So gradually the word kodama came to mean echo colloquially.

People believe that if you cut down a sacred tree which contains a kodama, a curse will fall on you, so there are trees which are protected. I like to try to represent the spirit of the tree in my paintings.”

What most excites you about having your own exhibition?

This is the first time I have had a solo show in the UK and I’m looking forward to filling the space of Forest Gallery like a forest. I’m very excited about displaying my work to a whole new audience.

If you like any of the works displayed in this post or would like to know more information, please contact us and we will be happy to help.


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