Friday, January 31, 2020. Today, I went to Mr. Harumichi Shibasaki’s solo exhibition, which is being held at the gallery “Rutan” in Ginza. What should I hide? I’ve even subscribed to Mr. Shibasaki’s Youtube channel, so I’ve seen the picture many times on the Internet – including the production process.
Let me explain here that Mr. Shibasaki is a watercolor instructor who was born in 1947 (he is 73 years old this year). He has been a painter and instructor for many years, but since he opened his Youtube channel in 2017, he has gained support from watercolor enthusiasts not only in Japan but around the world, and currently has over 520,000 registered users. I also bought some art materials to imitate him, and sometimes I paint when I feel like it (although it is hard to find time for it now).
And when I heard that Mr. Shibasaki was going to hold a solo exhibition, I decided to go, even though I was a bit hesitant. When I say “a bit hesitant,” I mean that now is not the time for me to be appreciating other people’s works. I was short on time. Rather, it’s a natural conclusion that I use the few hours I have after my part-time job to improve myself. However, I decided to take the plunge and go out because I thought, “If I don’t go now, I might regret it.”
Although I was not able to meet Mr. Shibasaki as a result – I had been thinking about what I would talk about if I actually met him – it was still wonderful to be able to observe the works I had seen on the screen with my own eyes directly and in detail. There were also some acrylic paintings, but I think the true essence of the artist’s work is his use of watercolor brushstrokes. Then there was the drastic omission. He dared not to paint, taking advantage of the blurring effect of water. Unlike oil paintings, which are created by layering paints, watercolor painting is all about speed. Accidental blurring, accidental smearing, or accidental splashing…. He intentionally combines these elements in his watercolor paintings. He dares not to paint too many details. Let the water do the work. If necessary, he will not paint what he sees as it is, but will change the position of things a bit. Because we are not taking pictures, we are painting…
The resulting works have a sense of “movement. In fact, in addition to Mr. Shibasaki, I also like the watercolor paintings of an American artist named Gary Tucker, and I subscribe to his channel. There are similarities in their styles. Emphasizing overall contrast rather than details. Always drawing with a sense of speed. Not overdrawing the faces of people…
Yes, the figures are the key. The landscape paintings of Mr. Shibasaki and Gary Tucker often depict very small human figures. They have no faces and sometimes lack legs below the knees (which suggests they are walking). But that’s what makes them so good. They look very lonely, even though they are supposed to be leading normal lives. Perhaps that’s because they are just mere garnish when viewed in the context of the overall landscape. However, that does not mean that they are depicted in a hands-off manner, and there is an unmistakable life in them. Are they accepting – or not accepting – their own pettiness? I really don’t know exactly. But at least to my eyes, they seem to be accepting it; each living their own life in a casual way. The focus here is not on interacting with others, but rather on the loneliness of living as an individual. It’s like sadness. Since we are born into this world, we will probably be alone until we die. Even if you have a family or a lover. I sense this from their pictures.
And one more important thing. “Then who is watching that scene?” The way they cut that perspective is superb. Of course, it is Shibasaki and Gary Tucker who are watching. But at the same time, we ourselves are watching. We may be able to learn the technique from someone else, but we can only learn the way to cut it out personally – that is, on our own. Or is it not something to be “learned” but something inborn? As an ordinary person, I don’t know all the details. But what I can say for sure is that it is clearly connected to the techniques of fiction. The way the point of view is cut off. The uniqueness of it. What to focus on?
This may sound a bit far-fetched, but there are other aspects, such as the importance placed on the momentum of the brushstrokes, the emphasis on overall balance rather than detail, and not being overly intentional. I feel that these aspects can often be applied to novels. The building in the background may actually have many more windows. The mountain ridgeline in the back left may actually be more finely curved. But that doesn’t matter. Perhaps this is how we perceive the world in our daily lives – in other words, the mountain ridgeline in the background only looks like a vague green blur. It doesn’t need to be accurate.We live in what we call the “objective world” from our own perspective (the “subjective world”). When we are exposed to a good painter’s point of view, we shift our view of the world just a little bit. And when we come back, we feel a little different. That difference is quite important.
In the end, after seeing Mr. Shibasaki’s paintings – the venue was very small – and flipping through previously published art books, I made a U-turn and went home without doing much else. Not only did I not have the money to shop, but I also did not have the time. This is what I thought when I wrote about Live Magic, but I think I’m probably becoming a little arrogant. I can’t stand looking at other people’s work for too long. I have to do my own thing. It’s always the same place I come back to. Sometimes I lose confidence, but I still have to keep doing what I need to do. Because there’s nothing else I can do.
Still, when I rode the Keio Line back home, the sky I could see from the window across the aisle looked like a painting by Mr. Shibasaki. Just before that, when I was walking through Ginza, all the people looked like Mr. Shibasaki’s faceless people. Of course it was a positive feeling. The way I see things had shifted a little. “That sky is painted with Jaune brillant and Cobalt blue diluted in water. Let it bleed a little with wet-in-wet… The area below the clouds is a deep Prussian blue (Mr. Shibasaki often uses this color). Bright areas are brighter. The dark places are even darker…”
So, I spent several hours in total, mostly on the move, and then returned to my room. And I am writing this article. What I was thinking on the train was that perhaps this kind of physical transportation was necessary for me at this moment. When I think about it, I haven’t really traveled far, and my days have pretty much followed the same pattern. It’s not always smooth, but I still work part-time, run, and spend the rest of my time writing novels (or writing songs, etc.). I have deliberately imposed (and will continue to impose) such regularities on myself. However, I may have wanted to relativize my fixed system once in a while. Maybe I wanted to reevaluate the meaning of what I was doing from a slightly more distant point. That’s what I was thinking.
But, in the end, I can’t grow even an inch while I’m on the move. As long as I write like this, I might be able to grow a little. It might help me develop a kind of writing style of my own. However, on the train, I just closed my eyes and thought and didn’t think about many things. I got off the Keio Line exit and somehow ended up entering the JR ticket gate by mistake (when I arrived at Shinjuku Station. I think I made the same mistake a few years ago…). I couldn’t quite find the building that housed the gallery, so I kept wandering around… (because there was some construction going on nearby…).
But, well, even though things can go wrong like that, it is also one of the best parts of being outside. I think my main job is to stay in my room and concentrate on my work, but every once in a while I need to get some fresh air. There I will see many faces and look at many shoes (after all, this time I was sitting on the train the whole time). I will smell the scents of various cities. I guess it is important for the human spirit, or at least my spirit, to do that, even though I generally come home fed up with it. Now, well, I just have to do my own thing. So long.
P.S. This article was written before the pandemic began. That was a long time ago. And now, in January 2024, I am 32 years old, moved from Tokyo to Sendai, and am still working part-time and writing novels. Time passes really quickly, isn’t it? By the way, two years after I wrote this article, I received a comment from someone. He actually knew Gary Tucker, who is introduced in this article, when he was a student. He apparently studied painting with Gary at a place called Kaji Aso Studio in Boston. He also wrote that he worked part-time with him in the Italian neighborhood (apparently they carried debris from the 5th floor of a building). I was very happy to receive such a reaction. I am just a budding writer, but four years later, I am still diligently writing. At first I thought things would be easier. But it seems that life doesn’t work that way. Still, amidst these hardships—and I was extremely poor—I tried to learn as much as I could. If you have a different perspective than others, you will definitely see something important. I have always believed that, and I think I will continue to believe that. While I manage to survive in this way, I may develop my own unique writing style before I know it. That’s what I’m hoping for (though conveniently). Well then, everyone. Take care. Bye bye.