Delicious color. Paint and paper. Cool. A swim or a walk in a forest, a light spring rain.
It's easy to forget how a painting comes about. It's easy to grow frustrated when you don't see anything, when there is nothing to coax or push. But a painting is nothing if not a supreme test of your patience. Give it time, let it breathe. It will open up.
This is Part 2 in the series of short films documenting the (four)est art project in the mountains of northern Kyoto (Japan).
notes and impressions
part 2 (June 17 & 18, 2018)
The forest has grown. It’s almost unrecognizable, like I’m visiting a new place. It’s a brilliant green, the forest floor waving in wispy ferns. The dense canopy of trees filters the sunlight creating soft spotlights for unseen performers.
Frogs leap from underfoot, crabs in a stream do a sideways tap dance. There are bugs hitch-hiking in my pant cuffs as well as vampiric leeches. The hotaru bukuro (spotted bellflower) rises up, straining to be noticed.
The paintings are mostly unchanged. Some leaves have fallen on number four in Kameoka and collected near the bottom. It appears to be an extension of the painting beyond its edges, a sort of blending into the real world. Number two in Keihoku has received a light dusting of forest matter – dirt, leaves, twigs. Numbers one and three are more defiant, resisting even a hint of assimilation. Give ‘em time.
The first in a series of short films documenting the (four)est art project in the mountains of northern Kyoto (Japan).
notes and impressions
part 1 (April 3 & 4, 2018)
The sakura along Route 163 were several days behind their cousins down in the city. Sections of truly spectacular color, that pale pink splashed across the shinryoku green mountainside.
The sun is warm. It seems a long time since I’ve felt this.
There are some moss-covered steps leading from a horse stable into the forest. Uchiyama-san and I follow these. I’m not sure what I’m looking for exactly. A home for the painting under my arm. There is an ugly fence, the type that delineates trespassing from not trespassing. It has been completely flattened in places by fallen trees. I smile. There are no boundaries in nature.
There is an ancient sugi (cedar), its trunk twisted and half decomposed. Still, life shoots up straight and tall 50 meters into the sky. This is the type of beautifully strange tree that is often revered in Shinto. I hang the painting from a point where a branch may have broken off a century earlier. It seems to float.
久多 | Kuta
There is a small graveyard that has been reduced to rubble by an unsympathetic typhoon. Just past this is a grassy trail, a path into the forest. This ends after ten meters. From here it is off-piste, leaves and twigs crunching underfoot. In centuries past this hill was terraced for growing rice. The vague undulating outline remains. There is a cool stream meandering down the hill, cutting through the overgrowth and around green boulders. This is a loose guide.
An overturned stone from an ancient stonemason’s quarry serves as a stand for the painting.
亀岡 | Kameoka
From the gravel road where we park the car the mountain rises straight up. It is billy goat steep. The angle seems even too much for the sugi, many of which have given up and lie in various stages of decomposition on the mossy earth. There is a strong breeze blowing down the river below. I can imagine this as a tree-snapping gale in a typhoon. Every vertical cleft in the mountain shows signs of rampaging water. A forbidding environment for a painting. I find a strong shoot coming up from the trunk of a healthy tree and thread my painting over it. Like the painting in Kuta it appears to hover above the ground.
Tamba is alive and bursting with spring color, wildflowers and trees in full bloom, the air vibrating. This is what inspired Basho and a hundred other Japanese poets over the centuries.
美山 | Miyama
The mitsumata, dobs of pale yellow, hang in the air.
Up the steep mountain. Rain is falling. I follow the stream; there’s no other route. There is a large rock protruding from the earth creating a small cave. I discover a small, obviously man-made, stone orb half-buried in the hollow. A little digging reveals another. An altar? A grave? I feel I have been brought to this place. This is where the painting will go. We stack the two round stones as they might have been three or four hundred years ago. The painting fits into this mountain crease.
京北 | Keihoku
The paintings stand in sharp contrast to the landscape, an unusual, foreign even, pop of color. It is a little shocking and amusing to see. In time, I hope, they will come to blend in with their surroundings. I wonder if four years is enough.
It is a strange feeling to leave these creations of mine in the middle of nowhere. Abandoned is a word not far from my mind. They have up until now lived in controlled environments – my studio and the gallery. Children is an obvious analogy. I think of them spending their first night alone in the absolute darkness of a forest. I think of the first rain that wets their surface. As if they are living things.
I am done. My part of this project is finished. Now it is Nature. It’s her turn.
いいかんじ (iikanji) – a good feeling