Artistic Duo

Excerpted from Generations Magazine, June 2008

Tagami & Powell have often been referred to as “Hawaii’s most remarkable artistic duo” although they would be the first to deny this as modesty is an important aspect of their lives.

Hiroshi Tagami passed away on June 13, 2014 at the age of 85. His art, however, continues to create an impact on the art community. Today, Michael Powell continues to produce outstanding oil paintings that reflect his own unique style of palette knife painting.

Hiroshi Tagami

Hiroshi Tagami

Over a 28-year shared artistic history, Tagami and Powell have sold thousands of canvasses to collectors and connoisseurs around the globe. People who know art in Hawaii know them and their exhibitions are heavily attended. Their approach to art includes giving back to the community by sharing their insights, ideas and success as they regularly assist charities in fundraising through art sales.

Part of their magnetism is that they are simply good people, compassionate, gentle and kind. Like their lives and personalities, their art converges and diverges. Both delight in still-lifes, seascapes and landscapes worked vigorously in oils (usually with a palette knife), though Hiroshi inclined occasionally to the surreal while Michael evokes the actual.

Michael Powell

Michael Powell

Their Home and Garden

Their former residence is a beautifully laid out home, studio and gallery that is an artistic statement in itself -- a one-acre work of art in three dimensions. Originally created by Hiroshi Tagami and Richard Hart, it features a wide variety of exotic and beautiful plants and flowers. Species include bright bromeliads, colorful anthuriums, ornamental gingers, exotic flowering trees from around the world and lush, fragrant orchids. Some specimens created by Tagami have been shared with London’s famed Kew Gardens. The gallery and garden remain open on special occasions.

Tagami and Powell’s Story

It is not surprising that the art they’ve produced shares a family resemblance. When they first began working together Hiroshi was the teacher, Michael the pupil. Indeed, the story goes that as a young businessman Michael (who first met Hiroshi when he was 11 years old, with an on-off acquaintanceship over the years) purchased so many of Tagami’s works. Hiroshi offered to teach him how to paint so that Michael did not have to keep buying them. Three years later, Michael sold 19 of his 21 works on the first day of his first show.

For many years, Michael worked as a marketing officer and corporate trainer who visited Hawaii regularly on business. One night in his Waikiki hotel he awoke and went out on the lanai, overlooking Diamond Head. There he had what he later understood was a moment of expanded consciousness.

“Your mind opens like a flower and you comprehend more and more until you feel as though you understand the rhythm of time itself.  Everything that is happening is perfect. Birth, death, happiness, sorrow, the movement of the tide, everything is happening in perfect order. Just when I got to the moment when I felt that I could almost comprehend infinity, my mind started to close, like a flower closing at the end of the day. I tried to hold the flower open, but could not, and I was slowly, gently returned to who I was. Yet I had this profound experience.”

A few days later Michael called on Hiroshi. Hiroshi looked at him and said, “It seems to me that you have recently had a moment of expanded consciousness.” Michael explained what had happened and was puzzled as to how Hiroshi could have known. “He was the only person I had ever met who shared my sensitivity to things. We became friends on a level that one would never expect - a real meeting of spirit and mind,” says Michael.

Michael’s objective in creating art focuses on allowing light, color and composition to come together in a work of art that brings an ethereal quality to the viewer -- a place to rest and find a sense of peace. 

Hiroshi’s life reflected Hawaii’s past into the present. As a young boy in Hawaii, Hiroshi labored in the pineapple fields from age 12 to help his widowed mother raise a dozen children. Later he was drafted in the Korean War. It was a turning point because after he returned, the GI Bill gave him the chance to study painting at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. There he began to show his talent. He subsequently started selling his work at the Honolulu Zoo fence. His work drew attention, and soon afterward he met and went into partnership with the gifted ceramist Richard Hart. Together they founded the Hart & Tagami Gallery. [In 1988, the gallery became the Tagami & Powell Gallery and Gardens until 2019. Today it’s known as the Kahalu'u Gallery and Gardens.] Hiroshi communicated deep spirituality, a personal quality that seems inseparable from his creativity. Art is what life is all about, according to Hiroshi. It is the significance of what he and Michael have created and continue to create.  Art is around us everywhere.