[Title] Voir le vent voyager dans le monde
[Artist] Eiji Okubo
[Date] October 28 – December 30, 2001
Travel the world, behold the wind
Yoshio Katoh, Independent Curator
Nature and man have always been an universal theme. Since pre-historic times, man has been a part of nature. With the worldwide economic expansion after the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th century destroyed the balance of this symbiotic relationship. After decades of lacking harmony, and in reaction to the overall destructions, a movement of returning to nature gradually spread during the late 60’s and effected many artists. Earth Work or Land Art which started in the U.S. suggested a new horizon in the field of fine art, one where nature itself became part of the artistic expression. Released from the existing framework such as paintings and sculptures, such art expressions increased its diversity. One such form of art is “installation”, which temporarily transforms a particular site into a work of art. It can be said that Land Art is a work of installation with nature. At about the same time as that of the U.S., artists in Europe began a similar attempt. However, their way of expressing nature was not so dramatic, but rather more subtle in its manifestation.
In the summer of 1980, Eiji Okubo traveled to England for his first time and was greatly inspired by Land Art. Since then, he has been creating works with nature. Crossing mountains, seashores, and plains, he listens to the sound of winds. The walk continues in rain, in wind, in spring, summer, autumn, and winter. His works, using materials from nature, recreate the time and atmosphere he experienced during his many travels. To walk around the world is a work of art itself for Okubo and his memoirs as an artist.
“Beauty of nature” Okubo created here in this exhibition represents the wind entangling light and water, and the earth. His works, placed inside the luminous space of glass blocks (created by the architect Renzo Piano and the interior designer Rena Dumas,) complement the heartbeat and the breath of nature. The space makes us feel as if we are in a room of ice or water, creating a sense of a natural environment but artificially. Okubo creates this environment in his works using branches of cedar, bamboo, leaves against the man-made stainless steel.
The work, A Wind Fills, is composed of a huge sculpture measuring ten meters, hung from a high ceiling with stainless steel board laid on the floor beneath it. Branches of cedar are usually hard and fragile and not as flexible as those of bamboo. However, these braches have a characteristic of bending gradually towards the sun. Using this tendency, Okubo has weaved a magnificent basket-figure sculpture tying each branch with jute. The stainless base on the floor represents light and water. This work leads us to imply the axiom of photosynthesis. The surface of “water” reflects the rhythmical structure of the branches, while from the huge cedar sculpture floating above, we visualize the silent, tranquil flow of air and a gust of wind.
In his other work, Stone Woods, a fumigated brown bamboo stands straight on top of a huge stone mountain at the end of an eight meters long stone pathway. The work in style of an ancient tomb, reminds us of the severity of life and death in nature. The heavy mass of the stones symbolizes the eternal earth and the horizon. The bamboo grows vertically towards heaven. The work symbolizes the meeting of “the horizon and the vertical line”, signifying “the holy place where Heaven and Earth meets.” Living with nature, mankind has experienced both the severity and blessings of nature. We can feel the gentleness of nature from A Wind Fills, and the austere nature from Stone woods.
Okubo displays his walks of the past to the present, expressing his own experience through visual forms. He reconstructs these parts of his past allowing his audience for a vicarious experience. His works lead us to look at the beauty of a branch or a stone and give us an opportunity to reconsider the relationship between man and nature. Okubo realizes his own existence through his long journeys, and conveys his message of nature through art. Through his work we can re-discover the beauty of earth which we have always taken for granted.
Translated by Miho Masuko