Art and Nature on Naoshima

June 17, 2009 - 3:51 pm

During our time in Japan we have mostly stayed in big cities, although compared to Black Diamond, every city is big and compared to most cities in Japan, every city in Canada is small. We met a woman from France yesterday who has been working for the embassy in Tokyo for the past year. She said that when she travels to Nagoya a city of 2.2 million people, she feels like she is in the country. There is a density of population here in the cities and between the cities that makes it feel for us that we are never truly in the country. We have enjoyed the museums and culture of the cities but felt like we need to get to the ocean and spend some more time in nature.

 This past winter John De Wit, a glass artist from the Seattle Area, came as a visiting artist to ACAD (Alberta College of Art and Design). While he was there, he gave us two valuable pieces of advice regarding Japan-

1. Be the water not the tea bag

2. Visit Naoshima Island

¬†Although Nao Shima is a small island in Japan’s inland sea, it is also home to some of the best contemporary art museums we have seen. Tyler found us a great place to stay, a traditional “Japanese Style” cottage on the beach. We spent many hours with the rice paper screens open to the sea, soaking up the view from our Tatami floored room, feeling inspired by the colour, light and texture of water meeting land. On the island there are two museums created by Japanese architect Taodo Ando. As well there are several old houses in the towns that have been designated as art houses, where individual artists created an art piece with or within the building. The results of this combination of art and architecture were stunning. It was inspiring to see what can be achieved when there is the intent and resources to marry art, nature and architecture. The Chichu Art Museum was built specifically to house certain art pieces. The building in itself can be considered art, it highlights natural elements to accentuate the art viewing experience. Experiencing the light of James Turrell and Monet’s painings of water lilies in that space was a transcendent experience. In the rooms I felt knew how a peasant in the middle ages must have felt seeing the ¬†interior of Chartes Cathedral and the light of ¬†stained glass windows. The effect of ¬†the light and space ¬†was truly inspired, it transformed my perceptions of the experience of viewing art. Unfortunately we were unable to take pictures of the work in the buildings but here is a sample of some of the work in outside spaces of the Ando buildings Bennesse House and Chichu Art Museum.



Entrance to Chichu Art Museum, built underground revealing spectacular views and framed vistas. Built specifically for the collection of art it houses, it has one room dedicated to four Monet water lily paintings and one section dedicated to three James Turrell works. 


chichu2The view as you Exit Chichu.

The same foundation has commissioned artists and architects to develop a number of projects using houses in the fishing village Honmura. Here are some shots of the art houses,  the first is titled Dreaming Tongue/ Bokkon Nozori 2006, and was created by Shinro Ohtake. It was the first that we saw :



Below Sea of Time by Tatsuo Miyajima, at Kadoya. A modified traditional interior. In what would be the Tatami sitting room was a pool full of LCD counters sequenced at different tempos.sea-of-timeThe final Art house project we took photos of utilizes glass in an extraordinary way. It is titled Appropriate Proportion and is by Hiroshi Sugimoto at the “Go’o Shrine” site.¬†



This final shot is as you exit the underground passage into the light.

underworld2Here are some other random shots from the island beach-house-interior