Miyuki Tanobe was born in 1937 in Morioka, Japan. She was named Miyuki, which means “deep snow”, for there was a violent snowstorm raging on the day she was born.
Tanobe attended primary and secondary school to be trained in the Japanese manner. Aware of her incipient artistic gifts, she used all her energies to open the doors of Gei-Dai University, Tokyo’s school of fine arts. When she entered university, Miyuki chose nihonga, a school of painting which describes itself as “Japanese painting”, for that is what the word means.
Nihonga artists use the traditional Japanese brush, colours made from hand-ground powders and glue, applied with water and incorporating pictorial matter.
While nihonga formed the main focus of her studies, Miyuki Tanobe’s university programme required her to attend workshops in oil painting, watercolours and engraving and to take courses in European, Chinese and Japanese art.
Tanobe arrived in France in 1963 where she painted at La Grande Chaumière in Paris before registering at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, France’s leading school of fine arts.
Miyuki Tanobe’s arrival in Canada in 1971 came as a result of a chance meeting in Paris with Maurice Savignac, her future husband, a french Canadian from Montreal.
Miyuki Tanobe’s work reflects a freedom of action. Her panels – she paints principally on rigid supports such as wood or sheets of Masonite – are filled with scenes that she has seen, analyzed and transformed.
To make the message of her works more effective, she transforms “humble and unavoidable reality” by reformulating it, adding or deleting elements depending on her assessment of their contribution to the scene she is recording. A picture by Miyuki Tanobe goes to the heart of the matter. She wants to open our eyes so that we may better see what we already know, or adjust our perception of what we think we know.
The colour in Miyuki’s paintings is rich and full of contrast. Working with superimposed layers, applying the pigments with her pliable, flexible Japanese brush, Miyuki Tanobe succeeds in revealing surprising and unexpected aspects of the objects and people she depicts in her pictures without, however, making it difficult to read them.
Miyuki Tanobe’s work has been shown at Galerie Valentin since 1972. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has one very large painting by Tanobe, as do the Musée du Québec, the Musée de Joliette and the Saidye Bronfman Centre in Montreal. Her paintings are to be found in prestigious corporate collections, such as Lavalin, Pratt & Whitney, Shell Canada, Reader’s Digest and many others.