Seitouchi Art Matters

By Professor John Clark, FAHA, CIHA, PhD

John Clark is Professor of Asian Art History at the University of Sydney and Australian Research Council Professorial Fellow

“The Setouchi International Art Festival began on 19th July this year and will run until 31st October. It spreads across seven islands and the Takamatsu port area on Shikoku which is very close to a number of art museums. The works on Naoshima also include the various Benesse Foundation museums, including the Lee Ufan Museum newly opened in late May, and the various art house projects in the Honmura area which go back to that of Miyajima Tatsuo in 1998.  In two days one could see only a small proportion of all these works so my impressions are inevitably discontinuous and partial.”….

“The Australians were careful in their working with sites and a community in Kou on Teshima, bypassed by the fashionable. This care had already largely been learnt in Japan by participation in the Echigo-Tsumari Festivals, whose attempt to reclaim and revivify a region suffering from population drain probably was one inspiration behind the Setouchi Festival. Here a very warm relationship had been engaged between the Australian artists and the local community, largely retired from the sea and aged, but still growing formidably delicious vegetables.”….

“Robbins’ Sea songs of the subconscious made a sea organ where pipes powered by the waves gave out plaintive whale-like notes over a disused boat on the empty promontory where it had been overturned. The beauty and emptied isolation of the place found complete resonance in this accomplished work. Melancholy, un-tricksy restraint, a call to the concrete poetry of a place and a situation, these are all aspects of a ‘Japanese’ poetics but have surprisingly perhaps found their expression in the works of antipodean wanderers who displayed a subtlety and refined solicitude for the transient and the otherwise discarded which some might have thought was an habitually ‘Japanese’ aesthetic position.”

Published in Asian Art News