Earth and Fire: Riki’s Tours Japan.

Day 7: Saturday 12 November: Today the group divides – Ralph-san, Robyn and Phil head off to Kurashiki (located in Okayama Prefecture) not far from the prefectural capital. Kurashiki has a series of preserved canals that date back to the Edo Period (1603-1867) during which the city served as an important rice distribution centre. The name Kurashiki is roughly translated as ‘town of storehouses’ in reference to its rice storehouses. The other half of the group comprising of Riki-san, Brunyfire, Janet and Dorinder head to Uno Port, the gateway to the islands dotting the Setonaikai (Seto Inland Sea).

Specifically, we’re headed to Naoshima island to check out its contemporary art installations, architecture and museums. Much of Naoshima’s art was installed by the Benesse Corporation, (a Japanese company which focuses on correspondence education and publishing based in Okayama city) which oversees art museums, installations and sculptures both on Naoshima and on neighboring islands.

(Top left: leaving Port Uni; top centre: arriving at Miyanoura Port on Naoshima Island and right: below left: Yayoi Kusama’s red pumpkin and Riki-San, Dorinda, Brunyfire and Janet in obligatory pose and below right: Naoshima Pavilion by Sou Fujimoto – 2015)

We pile in the island’s courtesy bus and head to the beach where Yayoi Kusama’s yellow fibreglass pumpkin, first erected in 1994, has been re-erected after a typhoon had swept it way in August 2021…….

……wander amongst Niki de Saint Phalle’s menageries of whimsical creatures (1991)……..

……before jumping back on the bus for Chichu Art Museum.

(Image from Avaunt magazine)

Located within a hillside that overlooks the Seto Sea, Japanese architect Tadao Ando’s design for the Chichu Art Museum was completed and was open to the public in 2004 and houses the work of just three artists – Claude Monet (1840–1926), Walter De Maria (1935-2013) and James Turrell (1943-). Chichu means ‘under the earth’ in Japanese, and this subterranean concrete bunker of a building pays fantastic homage in its light infused interiors to the work of these artists.

Entrance is by way of a short meander through a Monet themed garden to the Museum’s imposing entrance……

…..and once inside, apart from the Square Courtyard just beyond the entrance…..

……all photo opportunities cease – no photos allowed. Which in a way is only right. No photo can depict seeing Monet’s Water Lilies (1914-1917) in the pristine white on white environment of Tadao Ando’s designated space flooded with natural light from above – white walls of plaster and sand; Thassos white marble from Greece frame each painting and Bianca Carrara marble (700,000 two centimetre cubes) are embedded into the floor.

The next encounter is with James Turrell’s four works: Space (2004); Afrum, Pale Blue (1968); Open Field (2000) and Open Sky (2004). For Brunyfire, it was Open Field that had the most impact.

(Images of James Turrell’s Open Field steps and inside Open Fields)

Best described from the catalogue after one is allowed to ascend the steps to a large ‘canvas’ of blue as ‘stepping through the opening to an imperceptible depth, an infinite blue space (that) expands before us.’ And while walking in further, rather tentatively as all sense of space is deceptively devoid of those recognisable spatial planes we are accustomed to, colours shift and one becomes engulfed. There is an extraordinary feeling of walking into a painting and becoming fully immersed in it rather than being a typical viewer from the outside.

The final work was by Walter De Maria where, like Turrell, the artist worked closely with the architect for his specific spatial requirements. Time/Timeless/No Time (2004) is a smorgasbord of colour, texture and form from the gold encrusted granite sphere that sits centre stage, highlighting the changing daylight reflections in its polished surface from the openings above, to the gold leaf covered timber posts positioned on their concrete wall shelves. The space was supposed to emit a sense of tranquility according to De Maria, but for Brunyfire, there was way too much going on that was stimulating rather than calming.

(Image of Walter De Maria’s work from online site)

By this time, Riki-San and co. are in need of refreshments, a sort through the well appointed gift shop then a brisk walk back down to the bus that will take us back to Miyanoura Port, via George Ricky’s (1907-2002) stainless steel Three Vertical Squares Diagonal…..

…….and a last look back as the ferry departs Naoshima Island.


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