Martine Rey

I create objects that allow for an emotional or even an intimate connection between yourself and the object, a constant quest for the lost object, and/or the person who has been missing it ever since.

A lacquer artist specialising in "urushi" plant-based lacquer, Martine Rey discovered this ancestral technique 40 years ago, during her studies at the University of Fine Arts in Kyoto, Japan. Trained by Master Shinkaï, since her initiation into the art she has been developing a sensitive and personal approach to this living and sensual material, which she is constantly reinterpreting through her creations.

Published on 07/08/2019

2 min

After attending the École Supérieure des Arts Appliqués in Paris with a focus on ‘European lacquer’, Martine Rey went to Japan in 1977 to study at the University of Fine Arts in Kyoto. In a true revelation, she discovered the "urushi" plant-based lacquer technique and trained in it for a year and a half with master Shinkaï, before returning to Voiron in France, where she now lives and works.

Continuing her practice in France, in 1980 Martine Rey founded the LAC association (Laqueurs Associés pour la Création) and taught plant lacquer at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Appliqués et Métiers d'Art in Paris between 2002 and 2009. Having exhibited her art in France and abroad and been selected several times by the Ishikawa Triennial, Martine Rey was also invited to the W.C.C (World Urushi Culture Council) Symposium in 1993 in Tokyo and the International Fair of Lacquer and Painting Design in Ishikawa.

On her return from Japan in 1977, Martine Rey wanted to expand the “urushi” plant lacquer technique. Since then she has used lacquer to reveal the splendour of ordinary objects. In her hands and through the different layers of material she applies and polishes, the lively and sensual lacquer transforms a simple wishbone into a precious relic.

Martine Rey has developed a veritable artistic language over the years and continues to explore the possibilities of this material through creations which manage to express depth and fragility, without contradiction. Since 2000, she has practised the art of “kintsugi”, repairing ceramics with gold lacquer so that broken objects are reborn. Another way to reveal the tiny, imperfect beauty in everything.

Forty years after her training, without ever having lost her close ties to Japan, Martine Rey rediscovered Kyoto and Japan, the country and culture that has shaped and inspired her, during a residency at the Villa Kujoyama from May to October 2018. Generally having moved beyond the traditions from which she nevertheless constantly draws its inspiration, she saw this residency as a return to her roots, enabling her to establish new aesthetic connections between France and Japan.

Sharing her expertise with other Japanese lacquer artists, she has developed a new technique that she calls “urushinaashi”, inspired by combinatoin of “urushi” lacquer and the age-old art of “suminagashi” floating ink marbling. The ink originally used is replaced by lacquer, which she sprays onto the surface of water in large basins, allowing the material to be printed on silk, once again opening up new poetic territories for exploration.

Martine Rey - Retours de Résidence à la Villa Kujoyama
Martine Rey - Retours de Résidence à la Villa Kujoyama
  • 1975


    Martine Rey graduates from the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Appliqués in Paris, with specialisation in "European lacquer".

  • 1977


    Martine Rey discovers the plant-based lacquer “Urushi” during her studies at the University of Fine Arts in Kyoto and trains under Master Shinkaï.

  • 1980


    She becomes a founding member of the Association LAC (Laqueurs associés pour la Création).

  • 1993


    Martine Rey is a guest artist at the W.C.C (World Urushi Culture Concil) Symposium in Tokyo and Ishikawa’s International Fair of Lacquer and Painting Design in Japan.

  • 2002


    Martine Rey teaches plant-based lacquer at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Appliqués et Métiers d’Art in Paris until 2009.

  • 2018


    40 years after her training, Martine Rey returns to the origins of her art by undertaking a residency at the Kyoto Villa Kujoyama.

The Institut français and the artist

A Villa Kujoyama resident, Martine Rey stayed in Kyoto in 2018. Villa Kujoyama, an artist's residency in Japan, is supported by the Institut français.


Find out more about the residency programme at Villa Kujoyama.

L'institut français, LAB