Being surrounded by nature and watching all the big and little the movement happening around me. Reading books like the essays from Tanizaki Jun’ichirō. Watching the gentle yet strong moves in a ballet performance. Listening to voices like the one of Amy Winehouse.
There are different sources of inspiration for me. And then there is Japan. The more I read about this country and it‘s culture, the more I saw and experienced the more I felt unexpectedly at home.
My work is tender and subtle. If you‘d like to understand what‘s behind it I would like to offer you a window into my experiences and thoughts.
Here is a little collection of my Japan moments. I will be posting bit by bit.
One afternoon in Kyoto I decided to stroll around the area my guesthouse was at. All the sudden it started pouring down. Happy about the slight cooling (it was boiling hot) I searched for a place to wait until the worst rain had passed and found shelter under a beautiful little roof of an entrance. While I was waiting I peeked into the garden of the house I was standing in front of. A little path surrounded by wonderful small trees led to the entrance of a traditional japanese house. Completely faszinated by the gorgeous garden it took me a bit to notice the woman dressed in a flowery yukata standing at the doorway of the house, watching me through the rain. The sliding door only allowed a touch of an insight. The inside of the house was dark without any artificial lighting, only a golden glow from something like an altar was visible. One second later she was gone. Again the sliding doors opened and the woman was back standing there, this time in company with an elderly lady dressed as well in a yukata. What happened next is something I cannot really explain, but it really touched me deeply. Both of them looked at me with a soft smile and bowed. Never have I ever received such a sincere smile from a complete stranger.
The japanese painter Hasegawa Tohaku has been a great source of inspiration for me since a while. Important artworks in Japan are often only presented to the public for a short period of time before they are stored safely again without the harm of light and change of temperature. Before arriving in Japan I did some research where I would be able to see some of Tohakus work without much luck though.
After a long day walking through Kyoto and visiting the beautiful Eikando temple on my way back to the metro station I stumbeld across a small sign with a picture of one of Tohakus masterpieces. Not being able to read what the sign said I asked the man sitting at the entrance. My japanese is non existent as well as this mans english, but we managed to communicate that today it was too late, but the next day it would possible to see the painting of the monkey who tries grasping the reflection of the moon in the water from Tohaku.
Never would I have thought that I would be only accompanied by a nice japanese lady who guided me through the temple allowing me to sit by myself in the room where the sliding doors with the said painting are installed. No superficial lighting, no security glass or barrier. The tatami beneath my feet and the birds outside chirping. Soft light falling inside the room letting the painting glow. The distinctive brushstrokes from Tohaku on the delicate paper. Compared to the painters of the Kano school, his biggest competitors when he was alive, Tohaku did not use a lot of colours instead his style was very reductive. He had this great sensitivity for movement, timeless elegance and genuineness. Being so close to this masterpiece in such an athmosphere made me really rethink the idea of the in our culture so common white cube in which most of the exhibitions take place. The naturalness of the painting and the materials used are a great inspiration for me.
Afterwards I sat down in from of the tempel to look at the zen garten and process what I had just seen. But that will be part of my next post.
A few weeks after being back in Germany I drove to the black forest to shoot for a few days. My head full with all the memories and inspiration from Japan. Mist was slowly moving through the mountains and I thought about Hasegawa Tohakus famous pine tree painting, which inspires me greatly. The clouds embracing the trees causing partly masking them completely only showing the very reduced silhouettes. Again I felt so close to this great artist like back then when I was sitting in the temple in Kyoto. Here‘s the result of another Tohaku moment.
Sitting at the steps of the Konchi-in Temple looking at the zen garden I was very suprised. I have never before been to one and did not really know what to expect seeing it in real life. A whole world opened up in front of me. An invitation to dream. The branches of the asymmetrical cut trees and the arranged rocks seemed to tell a story. Suddenly the aesthetics of Tohakus painting was comprehensible. The pine branches reminded me of the the lanky arms of Tohakus monkey and the simplicity containing all the serenity and movement was graspable.
The connection between the Japanese and the sea is very profound. The circumstance that the country consists of 6852 islands is most probably one of many reasons for that. They even have a public holiday celebrating the sea.
I had the possibility to spend some time in Toba, a sweet little town at the seaside and got a better understanding of the appreciation towards umi, the sea. Art students arranged a small festival presenting their work within reach of the water. It was not about getting the most possible attention, but about integrating their art into their designated surrounding.
In combination of Toba being the home of the most active Ama (female seashell divers without oxygen tank) it was a very special encounter with the sea and will definitely influence my further approach with the umi project.