An Evolving Island: The Earthly Paradise

Yuko Hasegawa (Curator, Artistic Director of Inujima "Art House Project")

In addition to those who come for Inujima alone, many visitors to Inujima stop here as part of a pilgrimage around various islands. For those people, one aspect of Inujima that stands apart from other islands is its scale: one can circle the entire island in less than an hour, which size makes it feel much like walking around an art museum. By scattering its Art Houses -- pavilions -- across the island as galleries within this museum, Inujima "Art House Project" aims to peacefully coexist with the daily lives of the islanders. In one hour, one can catch sight of both art and the scenery of everyday local life.

The everyday scenery is not particularly majestic. It is a stream of casual, day-to-day beauty -- villagers doing farm work, burning dry grass or relaxing in the early afternoon under the eaves; fields brimming with flowers and vegetables growing together; and small houses against the backdrop of a blue sea.

Little by little, the island is breathing in new energy. Cafes have been built, performances are being held, and people from outside come to stay, even if only temporarily. An existing glass house has been transformed into a botanical garden with a recreational space and a pizza oven nearby, where people can hold workshops and enjoy their leisure time.

The theme of Inujima "Art House Project" is the Peach Blossom Spring, a legendary earthly paradise similar to Shangri-La or Arcadia. While such an area is rooted in everyday life, it stands the image of being remote yet abundant, where one could trade stories with the inhabitants. It is an extension of everyday life where the subconscious desires and strengths at the bottom of people's hearts can be drawn out and shared with others.

A series of stories is told by the works from F-Art House to I-Art House and all the way to the sea. As of 2018, these comprise Kohei Nawa's "the Birth of Life" at F-Art House, Yusuke Asai's "Engraved Memories" at Former Site of a Stonecutter's House, Haruka Kojin's "Transformation" at S-Art House, Beatriz Milhazes's "Energy of Color and Form" at A-Art House, Masanori Handa's "Floral Tribute for Life" at C-Art House, Olafur Eliasson's "Infinite Loop of Images" at I-Art House, and lastly Asai's "Invading Creatures of the Sea." As a general rule, the works in each Art House are displayed for three years. However, depending on each project, some works may stay semi-permanently, whereas others grow and change while maintaining the basic exhibition.

Art is something cultivated by its location and the people who come in contact with it. When a work surpasses the intentions of the curator and artist, seamlessly becomes a part of the scenery, and never fails to provide a fresh visual experience, it is appropriate to display it permanently. That's why we decided to display Kojin's work, which consists of about 4000 lenses, for a longer period.

Growing exhibitions are provocative experiments. Among the works exhibited since 2013, in 2016, Nawa's sculpture of a child grew up, and Asai's street paintings expanded to the coast.

F-Art House, the first in the series, holds Kohei Nawa's work, "Big Bang: Birth of Life." Nawa, who creates innovative forms by maximizing the possibilities of the materials, treats the entire area, including the Art House's surroundings, as a biota. A model of the Big Bang lies at its center, while Nawa's fauna and flora flank each side. A boy standing among the fauna changes to reflect the growth of "Ren," a boy the artist knows. Likewise, the plants in the flora garden on the other side also coincide with the idea of "growing".

Nawa is interested in the formation of stories involving symbolic relationships with the island -- for example, new forms born from the mysterious presence that drifts down from the Shinto shrine behind the Art House, or the island's industrial waste usage. He plans to create a pond in the front garden, which "Lake of Life" will attempt to express, through transformation of the appearance of water, a mysterious presence that drifts down from the mountains to become a living entity in the form of the Big Bang in the art house, and then scatters in the garden that spreads out under the building and across the thicket of trees.

At Former site of a stonecutter's house, Asai is developing simple yet powerful imagery employing an original method that uses white, weldable rubber material on top of a special foundation applied on the surface of the ground. He carries in stones from around Inujima, placing them in a square formation and baking images of flowers and the like onto them. The impressiveness of the expanded "ruins" of this stonecutter's house contrasts with the playfulness of the imagery. The camellia tree planted in the dirt between the stones form a kind of evolving garden of life, adding vitality to this place of memories.

Kojin's lens at S-Art House offers visitors an extraordinary visual experience by simulating the compound eyes of insect. In 2018, the exhibit in the circular A-Art House was changed to the Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes's "Yellow Flower Dream." The interior of the circular gallery is divided by 17 glass plates, each decorated with pictures formed from sheets of varying colors. These pictures, composed of bright colors and shapes, draw their inspiration from the island's scenery, such as flowers and waves. The vivid energy of Brazil is conveyed through the bright yellow roof and the colorful visual rhythms formed as plates of glass gradually overlap one another.

Masanori Handa's new artwork "Untitled (Flowers at C-Art House)" was newly installed in July 2019. The wooden sculpture, which looks as if a bouquet of large cut flowers is placed on the floor, fascinates viewers with the vivid colors of the pigments for Japanese-style painting and the aroma of camphor. Cut flowers are dedicated on various occasions from everyday life to extraordinary days. From the moment they are cut to the moment of death, they bloom with all their might toward the ultimate beauty. Taking inspiration from the way people live on the island, Handa created each flower in a free and abstract form. The work that gives you the quiet energy and the eros of life and death holds not explosive but implosive strength.

The I-Art House features Olafur Eliasson's "Self-loop" installation. Eliasson is highly esteemed as an artist for his optical knowledge and the new sensations that his work provides by placing natural phenomena inside rooms. In this house, he installed three mirrors, connecting the scenery from the windows on two sides of the room. One point in the room allows visitors to experience standing in the exact center of an infinite tunnel. The journey to find that is one of the highlights of Inujima "Art House Project". Travelling into infinite space through the single spot that connects to that space serves as the theme.

Lastly, along the road that returns to the harbor, Asai's mythical animals and flowers from the land and sea adorn the seaside with a calm brilliance. The animals from the sea seem particularly lifelike, as if they had just been washed up here. Each work in the growing Inujima "Art House Project" develops into its own unique lifeform. Furthermore, wonderful artists from overseas give this earthly paradise an even greater variety of depth and beauty.

We might be able to say that Inujima is such a unique project where art and the environment have united to develop as a single artistic organism or lifeform.

September 2019