The Japanese Artists in Sculpture by the Sea

Posted: March 6, 2015 / Essays

Keizo Ushio, ‘Oushi Zokei Mobius in Space’, Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe 2009. Photo Gordana Kezic.

Written by Keizo Ushio, Artist

Keizo Ushio reflects back to when he first exhibited in 2005 at Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe.

When I first stood on West Australian ground, I felt the endless potential of the expansive land, especially in comparison to the islands of Japan. The potential here comes not only from rich mineral resources and beautiful natural landscapes, but also from the openness of the people. In the cities you notice a wide variety of races, especially of young people.

My relationship with West Australia began in 2005 for the first Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe. A highlight of that year was meeting the well-known artist, and one of my best friends, Ron Gomboc, at his studio gallery in Middle Swan. This was such an inspirational moment and made me see the possibilities of collaborations between Western Australian and Japanese artists. Western Australia is a sister state to my home province, Hyogo prefecture in Japan. As the years go on we have seen many solo and group shows of Japanese artists exhibit at the Gomboc Gallery. On one occasion we had a symposium of WA artists in Hyogo, including Richie Kuhaupt and Ron Gomboc who visited Japan for the exhibition of more than a dozen Hyogo-Western Australian sculptures at the Asago Museum.

I find it interesting to ponder the differences in sculpture between Australia and Japan. In Japan outdoor sculpture was very popular with local governments and in public spaces from the 1970s – 1990s, but it was only rarely that people collected large sculptures for themselves. Here in Australia we see sculpture not only in public spaces, but also quite commonly in private collections and gardens. This is a crucial and important difference that I see benefiting Western Australia in the future as there is more public and private sculptures. It is very exciting for Japanese artists to be in private and public collections across Australia, with  most of these in Western Australia.

Hiroyuki Kita, ‘Like a Flower’, Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe 2014. Photo Jarrad Seng.

The hurdles Japanese artists face to exhibit their work at Cottesloe are considerable;  from the immense cost of shipping artworks, to the substantial language barrier, even with no time difference this makes it very hard for us and many are scared by the cost. However, many Japanese artists, especially young and emerging ones are increasingly attracted to exhibiting at Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe. There are many reasons for this but I think it boils down to spectacular Cottesloe Beach overlooking the Indian Ocean and because there are not many opportunities for artists in the world like Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe where world-class international and local artists come together, as well as the support of kind-hearted and generous art lovers in the state. In every successive year of Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe I find new friends.

When a sculpture of mine has a final resting place in West Australia it’s a happy event, not only for myself, but also for my sculpture. The first sculpture I exhibited in Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe 2005 found its final home in front of the Vasse Felix Winery in the Margaret River. Other sculptures of mine are in Port Hedland, the City of Perth and several homes. My sculptures are not alone, many Japanese artists are now in private and public collections in Western Australia. With thanks to the generosity of the people of Cottesloe, a rising young Japanese sculptor Yoshio Nitta’s ‘Four Pots’ was purchased from Sculpture by the Sea as the first sculpture in the Town of Cottesloe collection. This was followed in 2014 when ‘Dark Night Shine’ by Takahiro Hirata was purchased from the 10th anniversary exhibition for installation in front of the Cottesloe post office. Both of these artists are pleased to exhibit again this year along with many of our colleagues from Japan.

Sunsets over the Indian Ocean are famous across the world. I will never forget the colours of the Cottesloe sunset, the landscape and water surface. I have had many wonderful experiences  in  Western Australia for over ten years which I am sure will continue for many years to come. I hope Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe continues forever, you have something special here.

Koichi Ogino, ‘Camel Country’ (2010), Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe 2012. Photo Kec.

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