Makoto Ambo was born in Saroma, a town on the north coast of Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido, in 1962. He moved to Chitose City where he grew up, and also met Ainu, the
indigenous people of Hokkaido.
Makoto has been captivated by calligraphy and painting since childhood, and in 1981 he entered the Graphic Design Department of Hokkaido College of Art and Design. In 1993, wanting to learn more design, he became a freelance designer, and entered into a two-year contract with POLO B.C.S, designing logos and making cut-and-sew designs. In 1995 he became a master instructor at Nihon Shodo Hyoronsha, an association in Hokkaido for the promotion and study of calligraphy.
In 1996, observing and taking advantage of ink's propensity to bleed, Makoto discovered a completely new technique of ink painting that does not leave brush lines. Japan's national broadcasting company, NHK, introduced Makoto and his unprecedented technique on television as the "New Japanese Ink Painting." After that, he has worked as a modern Japanese black ink artist in Japan. Using Japanese paper and ink, he paints dragons and Mt. Fuji in ways that express the beauty of ink painting and the uniqueness of Japan, and he paints works with themes of environmental protection that also respect Ainu culture, such as owls and forests. In addition, since 2018 he has been active painting cats with the theme of "zero killing" as part of cat protection activities
From 2008 to 2019 Makoto has held a solo exhibition at the fashionable, upmarket Japanese department store Mitsukoshi in Sapporo. In 2010 he won the Japan-France Contemporary Art World Exhibition Award, and in 2019 he was selected for the 230th edition of Le Salon de la Société des Artistes Français to be held at the Grand Palais on the Champs-Élysées, Paris in February 2020.
Contemporary Japanese Black-Ink Artist
1962 Born in Saroma Town of Tokoro-gun, Hokkaido and grew up in Chitose
1981-1983 Attended and graduated Hokkaido Institute of Design’s Department of Graphic Design
1993-1996 POLO BCS Sapporo’s exclusive designer
1994 Began working artistically with a unique self-taught method of “bleeding” Japanese black ink
1995 With the foundation of his unique style of ink-bleed art in place, attention from NHK Sapporo and other mass media began bringing public recognition
1996 Established both domestically and internationally as a notable contemporary Japanese black-ink artist
2001 Designed Hokkaido International Airlines’ AIR DO Party 2001 logo
Makoto Ambo has been actively involved in solo exhibitions, seminars and workshops throughout Japan as a contemporary Japanese black-ink artist, calligrapher, designer and poet. Inspired by the Ainu culture, he is well known for artwork in the kotan-kor-kamuy—Blakiston's fish owl—motif. He is also an instructor of calligraphy with Nihon Shodo Hyoronsha and a member of the Hokkaido Design Association.
Major Award History
1995 10th Hokkaido Calligraphers Exhibition, Encouragement Award (Hokkaido Calligraphers Association)
1996 19th National Art Exhibition, Excellent Work Award (Tokyo International Association of Artists)
2007 76th Sakujitsukai Exhibition, Selected (Sakujitsukai Artists Association)
2007 11th National Kimono Design Competition, Japan Silk Industry Association Award (Japan Textile Dyeing Joint Association)
2008 12th National Kimono Design Competition, Selected (Japan Textile Dyeing Joint Association)
2008 Tokyo Ginza Music Beer Hall Lion 20th Anniversary Song Lyrics Section, Grand Prize (Tokyo Beer Plaza Lion)
2010 14th National Kimono Design Competition, Selected (Japan Textile Dyeing Joint Association)
2010 11th Exposition l’Art Actuel France-Japon, Exposition l’Art Actuel France-Japon Award (Club des Amis de l’Europe et des Arts)
2013 Setsuryosha Florence Exhibition, Selected (Setsuryosha Museum of Art)
2017 NEKOISM 2017, Excellence Award (NEKO-EXPO)
2020 "230th LE SALON 2020", Mention
Major Solo Exhibitions
1996 Playing with Japanese Black Ink Exhibition, Royton Sapporo Gallery Salud (Sapporo International Arts Association, Sapporo, Japan)
1998 Owls and Forest Exhibition, Mitsukoshi Sky Gallery (Sapporo Mitsukoshi Department Store, Chitose, Japan)
1999 Owls and Forest Exhibition, Tokyu Art Gallery (2000 & 2007, Kitami Tokyu Department Store, Kitami, Japan)
2001 Makoto Ambo Exhibition, Yume Otaru Art Museum (Yume Otaru Art Museum, Otaru, Japan)
2004 Makoto Ambo Exhibition, Kobe Daimaru Art Gallery (2005 & 2007, Daimaru Kobe Department Store, Kobe, Japan)
2007 Makoto Ambo Exhibition, Roppongi Hills umu（Sanwa Giken, Inc., Tokyo, Japan）
2008 Makoto Ambo Exhibition, Sapporo Mitsukoshi Art Gallery (2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2017 & 2019, Sapporo Mitsukoshi Department Store, Sapporo, Japan)
2008 Makoto Ambo Hometown Exhibition, Saroma Town Center（~2019, Saroma Town Board of Education, Saroma, Japan）
2018 Makoto Ambo Exhibition, DIAROOM (Environment Network, Osaka, Japan)
2018 Makoto Ambo Exhibition, Omotesando Hills Gallery WAKO (Environment Network, Tokyo, Japan)
2020 JCAT Online SOLO Exhibition-Makoto Ambo-
Major Group Exhibitions
1997 Instigator of A Street Corner Canvas Exhibition, Sapporo Art Park (Sapporo Art Park, Sapporo, Japan)
1999 Northern Design Exhibition, Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art (Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, Sapporo, Japan)
2000 GCC International Art Exhibition, War Memorial of Korea (2007 & 2009, GCC, Korea)
2000 Finland International Art Exhibition, Virastoalon Gallerir (KCAA, Finland)
2000 Seoul International Art Festival, Kwanghwamun Gallery (KCAA, Korea)
2002 Universal Communication Art Festival in Sapporo, Sapporo Art Park (Sapporo Art Park, Sapporo, Japan)
2007 International Art Festival, Chosunilbo Art Museum（2009, ICAA, Korea）
2010 11th Exposition l’Art Actuel France-Japon, Aoyama Spiral Hall (Club des Amis de l’Europe et des Arts, Tokyo, Japan)
2010 41st Exposition d’art Contemporain Japonais, Chateau de I'Hermine (Club des Amis de l’Europe et des Arts, France)
2011 12th Exposition l’Art Actuel France-Japon, Aoyama Spiral Hall (Club des Amis de l’Europe et des Arts, Tokyo, Japan)
2011 43rd Arte En Manos Japonesas, Puerto Vallarta International Convention Center (Club des Amis de l’Europe et des Arts, Mexico)
2012 Artexpo New York 2012, Pier 92 (Redwood Media Group, USA)
2013 Flanders Expo Gent Belgium 2013, Gent (Art Gent, Belgium)
2014 Sapporo Design Festa, Sapporo (Hokkaido Design Association, Sapporo, Japan)
2015 The Origin of Beauty Exhibition, Tokyo (The Origin of Beauty, Tokyo, Japan)
2017 NEKOISM 2017 Exhibition, Kamakura (NEKO-EXPO, Kamakura, Japan)
2019 1st Festival d’Art Sacré de Senlis (Les Poissons du Ciel, France)
2019 Marugoto Neko Festival 2019 (Hanshin Department Store Umeda Main Store, Osaka, Japan)
2019 Marugoto Neko Festival 2019 in Kobe (Hanshin Department Store Umeda Main Store, Kobe, Japan)
2019 Marugoto Neko Festival 2019 in Hakata (Hanshin Department Store Umeda Main Store, Hakata, Japan)
2019 iPhone Design Contest, Japan Festa (Japan Art Business Association, France)
Reasons behind Makoto Ambo’s Passion for Kotan-Kor-Kamuy
The indigenous Ainu people of Hokkaido call the Blakiston's fish owl kotan-kor-kamuy and worship them as their paramount god. A native son of Hokkaido, Makoto Ambo recognizes that no discussion of Japan can be complete without consideration of the Ainu culture and has therefore dedicated himself to making the endangered Blakiston's fish owl his lifelong motif in tribute. His art has also led him to ponder and reconsider such diverse issues as man’s coexistence with nature, the environment, racial discrimination, utopian society, the meaning of life and our reason for being. The Ainu culture has thus become an integral part of his art and is an identity that Ambo cherishes.
Art in Action
Techniques and Characteristics of Bleed Pictures
1.Water is dripped so as to increase surface tension.
2. Black ink is placed to create shadows and lines.
3.The amount of black ink is adjusted.
4.Excessive water is absorbed and drawn away.
※ Depth and solidity can be depicted by repeating this process over and over after drying.
Makoto Ambo’s innovative, unique bleeding technique is completely different from traditional wet-in-wet drawing methods. Generally, bleeding refers to how water or ink seeps into textiles, whereas Ambo creates bleeding within individual drops of water and then lets the ink settle and affix to the paper. However, the most significant difference that distinguishes his work is that it embraces a time-consuming, repetitive process with multiple layers of bleeding. This unique process creates shadows and sense of solidity even as it maintains transparency, which all contradict traditional Japanese black-ink drawings. This feature forms the essence of Makoto Ambo’s deep, mysterious world of black and white. In addition, even though it is a bleeding technique, delicate details are expressed so clearly and sharply that his works are often mistaken for prints. Makoto Ambo’s bleeding works of art are thus truly unique and unrivaled by any other type of black-ink drawing.