PhotoVisa online lecture by Shigeru Yoshida
"Artist about Artist"
テーマ は”Artist about Artist”

Auguest 20th 2021 / 2021年8月20日

I accepted the offer from Masha, a director of International Festival Photography PHOTOVISA in Russia, to participate in this video conference. I gave a lecture about “Artist about Artist”. The directors wanted to hear my personal opinions. They also wanted to know how I was inspired by other artists and how I represented their ideas in my artwork. It was hard to explain in words but these are commonly - asked questions overseas.

毎年、ロシアで開催されているInternational Festival of Photography PHOTOVISA のディレクターであるMashaさんからの依頼で、オンラインでのレクチャーをすることになりました。テーマは”Artist about Artist”。フォトアーティストが個人的な見解でほかのアーティストについて語り、「どのように影響されたか」「どのように作品に反映されているか」を話してほしいとのことでした。なかなかハードルの高いミッションでしたが、じつはよく聞かれる質問でもあるので、改めて短時間で説明できるようにまとめました。

Nachi Falls. 那智の滝

The background of Japanese culture

“Awe of nature” is the spirit that most Japanese people have on a subconscious level. Many Japanese artworks have an underlying philosophy. It’s similar to how people are strongly influenced by Christianity in the history of European paintings. It’s important to think of the underlying philosophy of culture for understanding arts. Think about shrines. Shrines are also well known to people abroad. Many shrines are built in front of beautiful waterfalls and near big trees. The waterfalls and the trees are also the objects of worship. Many Japanese people have feelings of awe for nature, such as fire, the sun, air, water, big trees and stones. Indeed, we are grateful for nature and give our thanks rather than pray. Even if a Tsunami attacks people and causes severe damage, victims will never blame nature for what happens and never lose the feeling of awe.

多くの日本人が普通に持っている感覚で、「自然への畏敬の念」というのがあります。日本の多くのアート作品の根底にはこのことがあると思います。この感覚は、西洋絵画の歴史の中でキリス ト教の影響を強く受けていることを理解するのと同じではないかと思いますが、文化の根底に流れているものを考えることは重要だと思っています。

A famous Fire Festival is held in Shingu, Wakayama.PRF.

We believe that fire flames bring our ancestors’ souls to us. We show our respects to them as a divine messenger. All the objects that I mentioned are in nature. I think this is the reason why people overseas often say that Japanese photographers have special feelings for nature. I want to talk about how I feel about Japanese art based on the relationship between nature and peace


A view of life and death, a view of the world

One major feature of Japanese art is that expresses two opposite worlds. Let me explain. There is an old temple “Todaiji”, it is located in Nara. There is the Southern big gate at front of this temple. Think about the Southern big gate in Todaiji temple in Nara. Todaiji temple has a long history which was constructed in 1199. Many tourists visit this place all through the year. The two statues of Kongo Rikishi are placed on the left and right sides of the gate. Those statues are together called “a-un”. When we face the statues from the front, Agyo-zo stands on the left side and Ungyo-zo stands on the right. They are said to have been built in only 69 days in 1203. Look at the statues’ mouths. Agyo-zo opens his mouth, saying like “a!”. It is said that people say “a” when they are born. Agyo expresses it. Ungyo-zo, on the other hand, closes his mouth tightly, saying “un!”. Most people shape their mouths “un” at the last gasp. Those two statues are there as a unit and express “the beginning and end of the universe.” Japanese arts are deeply connected with contrasting objects like this. The statues of two in the gate express a view of life and death and the spiritual view of Japanese people.

日本のアートの大きな特徴は対立する二つの世界を表現しているということにあります。例えば、観光客が多く訪れる奈良の東大寺、ここに南大門という門があります。歴史は古く1199年に創られました。この門の左右に大きな金剛力士像が二体安置されています。合わせて阿吽の像と言われています。正面から見て門の左側には阿形像、右側には吽形像です。1203年にわずか69日間で製作されたといわれています。像の口元を見てください(画像はクリックすると拡大します) 。「阿」とは、人は「あっ」と声を発して生まれてくるといわれていて、そのことを表すように口を開いています。もう一体の「吽」とは、人は「んっ」と口をつぐんで亡くなるといわれ、「んっ」と息を飲んでいます。阿吽は2つで「宇宙のはじまりと終わり」を表しているといわれています。この相対する2つの要素があるというのは日本のアートの特徴の1つです。この門では日本人が持っている死生観と宇宙観を表しているといってもいいでしょう。

A view of life and death, motion and stillness

Let’s take another example. This picture was drawn by Miyamoto Musashi who was famous master swordsman in the 17th century. He expressed a win-lose situation that is decided in the blink of an eye. A shrike perched on a dead tree. The bird is dignified. His eyes peering out makes him seen like a master swordsman. But try to look at the branch in detail. You can see something else on it. It is a worm, crawling up to the top. If the worm gets caught by the bird, this peaceful and silent atmosphere might be destroyed instantly. You can see the quiet and hustle and bustle, the law of the jungle, the gap between life and death in this picture. From another perspective, the worm is Miyamoto Musashi himself, and it shows his willingness to succeed. The worm never crawls fast but slowly goes up to the top of the martial art with passionate, yet fragile, devotion. Despite the steady progress, your life may be taken away in the blink of an eye. Musashi may want to show that his life stands on the precipice. Showing some contrasts such as life and death, energy and silence in the picture means there is religious thought behind the Japanese arts.
Here is a short video of Japanese “iai”, or Japanese sword training. You’ll see what it involves for the first four minutes.

もう一つの例を見てみましょう。この絵は、17世紀に剣豪として知られた宮本武蔵の絵画で”a master swordsman”として知られています。一瞬の勝負の世界を描いたものです。枯木のてっぺんに一羽の百舌鳥(もず)が佇んでいます。姿は威風堂々としていて、眼光の鋭さは剣豪そのものと見ることもできます。そして、よく見ると、枯木にはもう一つ何かがいます。這い上がってくる一匹の芋虫です。この静かな空間が、次の一瞬で芋虫を食べるという殺戮に変わるかもしれない。こうした静けさと喧騒、弱肉強食の世界、生と死の狭間をこの一枚から感じ取ることができます。 また一方で、この芋虫が宮本武蔵自身で、懸命に上に向かっていく(=武芸に励んでいる)姿だという見方もあります。そのひたむきさと儚さ。芋虫は決して早くなく、ゆっくりと武芸の到達点に向かって登りつめていく。その着実さとは裏腹に、一瞬にして死を迎えるかもしれない。自分はそういうとても不安定な存在であるともいっています。 こうした一枚の絵に、生と死、躍動感と静寂感を表すというのは、宗教的な思考を背景に、日本の美術の特徴の一つといえると思います。

One moment and eternity

Here is another picture of Japanese art. This is “The Shorinzu byobu”, the pine trees screen, drawn by Hasegawa Tohaku in the 16th century. It is designated as a national treasure of Japan. You can see the pine trees in the morning mist and a mountain covered with snow is drawn in the far distance. It represents the momentary peacefulness of the early morning fog. When you look at the picture closely, it’s drawn with a rough brush stroke. But when you move away and see the picture, it turns out to be an elaborate realistic painting and the whole scenery spreads out in front of you.
Prior to completion of this picture, Tohaku lost his son Kyuzo who would be his heir. Perhaps he showed the opposite side of life, like one moment and eternity, rough and elaborate, and past and present in his picture. When my father passed away, I was at his bedside. It felt as if time had stopped for me. I felt my father’s soul left his body and the passage of time was fleeting yet eternal.


Replace the colors

This is another picture from the 18th century, which has another characteristic of Japanese art. I think a major property of Japanese art is that by replacing something with another image makes the art look more symbolic and it develops viewers’ imagination. They didn’t have enough paint colors at that time. There are so many kinds of colors in nature but they just be recreated. So, the artists used other colors and made it look as if many colors were used in it. Furthermore, this technique made the picture more symbolic. Here is Ogata Korin’s “Irises”. Only three colors were used on gold-foiled paper. But don’t you think that there were more colors used? The shadows and highlights of the leaves weren’t drawn but it looks as if they were. The layout of irises creates a unique rhythm and that makes the painting dynamic.


Replace the shape

This is another painting by the same artist, “Red and white plum blossoms”. It’s also a registered national treasure. A young red plum tree is drawn on the right side and a white one is on the left. A flowing river is drawn at the center. This bold layout is well designed. Contrasting ideas such as young and old, straight lines and curved ones, movement and stillness are drawn here. Look at the center. The flow of the river is drawn beautifully. As Korin was the second child of Japanese kimono shop, he might have well known the beauty of the pattern of kimonos and got the inspiration from them. He succeeded to show his painting by incorporating the idea of this beautiful pattern of kimono design.


Here is another piece of artwork. This is Katsushika Hokusai’s wooden print. He was made in about 1831 when Hokusai was 71 years old. I want you to focus on the water expressions. According to one story, Hokusai didn’t sketch the wave from nature but introduced the transom design of a Japanese house. The design of this transom was made by a sculptor who was called “Nami no Ihachi”, a wave master of sculpture Now the transom is in Gyogenji temple in Chiba prefecture. Hokusai’s wave is similar to this transom. Perhaps he got inspired by the transom used in Japanese rooms at that time. Getting the ideas from kimono design and transom can make the paintings more impressive instead of drawing the objects realistically.

形を置き換えるという点でもう一点紹介します。 葛飾北斎によって作られた木版画です。1831年頃の作で北斎71歳頃の作品として知られています。こちらの水の表現も見てほしい。 この波の形は実際の波を写実的に描いたのではなく、一説には、日本の住宅に使われている欄間からきているといわれています。千葉県の行元寺というお寺に、武志伊八郎信由(たけし いはちろう のぶよし)、「波の伊八」と呼ばれた彫工(彫刻師)がつくった欄間(らんま)にこの絵の波は似ているともいわれています。北斎は当時の日本間によくつくられていた欄間から着想を得たとも推測されています。 着物の図案から着想を得たり、日本間から着想を得たりしたとすると、写実的に描くのではなく、シンボリックなものに置き換えて、より一層印象を強くしていたといえるのではないでしょうか。

To conclude my lecture, I’d like to show how I have been inspired by those past Japanese arts and how I incorporate them into my artworks.
This is one of my projects “One minutes “Border - for a prayer” ”. I’d started this project after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. I was inspired by the victims of the tsunami who kept praying toward the sea. I wanted to express their thoughts and beliefs in my artwork. In addition to the value of life and the views of life and death in Tohoku. Living and dying, transience and eternity, noise and silence. Making my artwork in black and white photos, I think it’s the best way for illustrating those two opposite things.
では、最後になりますが、いままで紹介してきた過去の日本の芸術作品がどのように自分の作品に落とし込まれたかをお話しします。 まず、僕の”Border -for a prayer”というプロジェクトは2011年に起きた東日本大震災のあと、津波の被災地で、人々が海に向かって祈っている人の心の中を描こうとしたものです。僕はそこに命や死生観を表したいと思いました。生きることと死ぬこと、永遠と一瞬、騒々しさと静けさ。それらを対比するために、モノクロの白と黒の2つのトーンを選びました。

“Sea Wall” is another project. I took pictures of huge breakwaters in the affected area. I wanted to show how the life of people living with the sea has changed and separated by the huge barrier of concrete walls. From a journalistic approach, I had to add some notes for the picture but I tried to show the object itself as symbolic as possible.
“Sea Wall” is another project. I took pictures of huge breakwaters in the affected area. I wanted to show how people living by the sea have changed and been separated by the huge barrier of concrete walls. From a journalistic approach, I had to add some notes for the picture but I tried to show the object itself as symbolically as possible.

Finally, I’d like to tell you about my next work. Although, I don’t have a clear vision for a project yet, I take pictures using drones. I have a pilot license and I enjoyed flying a motor glider. I remember how the view from the sky was amazing and thought it would be nice if everyone could see this beautiful bird’s eye view. I’ve been trying new things out now. Such as making movies with drones. Kanie Setsuko, a director of SAMURAI FOTO, helps me to edit the movie. Editing is important. It makes the movie totally different. I need to have multiple perspectives on a new project.
When you make something, you imitate other people’s works and maybe it gets better at first. But if you keep making the same artworks over and over, you’ll get bored and you will stagnate. I produce what the art gallery and museums ask me and they seem to be similar to my old works. But it’s not good to imitate yourself. It’s always important to be evolving. That’s the most important rule for artists. I believe the saying, “Change in the only constant” is exactly right. I’m still working hard on drone filming. Here is what I’ve been making for the next project. I hope you enjoy my new journey from the sky.
Thank you.

最後に、今、どのようなものに取り組んでいるのかについてです。 まだ、プロジェクトとしてつくり始めたわけではないのですが、最近はドローンの撮影を始めています。学生の頃にモーターグライダーをやっていてパイロットのライセンスも持っていますが、もっと気軽に鳥のように空から見れないのかと最近始めました。まだ、手探りの状態です。こちらは動画をメインにしていて、編集はSAMURAI FOTOのディレクターの蟹江さんに頼んでいます。動画は編集によって別物になるので、新しいプロジェクトのための視点を探したいし、撮影した映像がどのように組み立てられても、どんな印象を生み出すか、興味を持って見ている段階です。 大切なことは、人のことを真似して作品をつくっているうちは進化しますが、自分でつくってきた世界を自分で真似するとつまらなくなるだけだということです。ついついギャラリーや美術館に求められ、支持されたのと同じような作品をつくってしまいます。しかし、同じテーマであったとしても常にネックストワンが大事で自分自身をコピーしてはいけない。それがアートをやる人間の原則だと思っています。「変化こそ唯一の永遠である」という言葉がありますが、その通りだと思います。まだ、途中ではありますが、ドローンのショートムービー入れておきます。

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