AND CHICHU MUSEUM
Naoshima Island displays work from some of the worlds most gifted architects, designers and artists. The calibre of elite artisans in such a setting is unique to the world - I was so privileged to have visited.
Leading up to my Japan trip, I had developed extremely high expectations, in-particular for Naoshima island. Probably in a similar way a child builds up anticipation for Disney Land, I cannot say I acted much different at all. A precarious attitude as typically one can become disappointed, usually hype is not met with reality. In this one circumstance, my expectations were exceeded and something special occurred; I learnt more about myself in a short forty-eight hours.
Chichu was designed into the landscape, a subterranean collection of large seemingly basic shapes from a plan perspective, inlaid to the earth. Once inside the many dimensions and dynamic architectural decisions made to create space become evident. Surprised by the amount of natural light as it brightens the smooth grey concrete, and illuminates walking paths. Like being at the theatre, one feels as though the show is about to commence and something outrageous sits behind the curtain, with seconds to its unveiling. With this anticipation building you are fed slight reveals, as the curtain is an inch off the ground, Ando gives you a courtyard filled with rocks and a scenographic pathway, transforming visitors into design elements. The journey continues in a similar fashion until you reach the main gallery.
The curated artwork is breathtaking, surprising and awe-inspiring. I have viewed Claude Monet’s Water Lily’s many times, even visited the real thing in Giverny France, could this be why I was so mesmerised by the floor? Had I seen enough of Monet I wondered. No, of course not, that will never happen, however I had completely floated passed Monet peering straight to the ground at the hand cut and polished cubes of white stone, so remarkable in themselves that I swept my hand over the textured surface while I gasped in awe, then looked up and did the same again. ‘Ahh’ I thought to myself, ‘all is normal again’.
Like a tight muscle, my mind had been generously manipulated to release my inhibitions and to proceed with what I truly believe in. It is a prime example that architecture extends further than what the eye can see. It proves that orchestrated spaces, regardless of their level of construction are as significant to the overall outcome of the built environment and impact on users. Spaces which possess sculpture to frame a view or that drew one into the landscape through curiosity, are architecture extending out its living system.
Naoshima Island is a gift to humanity and Chichu, like the Pantheon in Rome or the Taj Mahal in Agra, will exist for future generations. Physical prowess, characteristic of public architecture, can distinguish the zeitgeist. It can make sense of a multilayered system we all live in, a great responsibility upon a remarkable talent, of which only few architects possess and only few achieve.
Exploring Naoshima Island felt to me as though I had stepped into my own mind, as though I was exploring a physical construct of the space within my head. I am sure a few people out there can empathise, I wonder who they are and what they create. I suppose this feeling was validating, I felt understood and at peace with my thoughts allowing me to become unguarded and playfully innocent, absorbing everything I encountered through a childlike perspective. This trip intended to remedy my idle mind and senses, stimulated on a level necessary to inspire me, it was a trip worth taking.
Lodging in a Tadao Ando environment for the first time, sent me slipping rapidly into his ethos, something like a dream. Leaving Benesse House Park to dine close by in Benesse House Museum, meant that the exhibition was accessible by night. In the quiet of the evening accompanied by my highly inquisitive nine-year-old son Enzo sporting his new, Kurashiki denim bow tie, we roamed the exhibits. Rooms purposely built for art works were art themselves, a prelude for what was to come the next day in the Chichu Museum. An absolute marvel with photography not permitted, abandons me with text alone for the arduous task of journeying you through what was arresting, in both its visual and physical elements.
Elevated in excitement for what was to be unveiled next, James Turrell a revered contemporary artist, one I admire greatly. In a line I waited behind other curious people, each taking off their shoes, I thought ‘perhaps another floor to rival the artwork. Rather, it was a staircase leading to a large rectangular light on the wall. Little impressed, we were instructed to walk all the way up, pausing once our noses were about to touch the wall and the gallery staff insist we continue walking. Perplexed, we hesitantly took a step forward into what was not a wall at all, it was an ingenious play on light generating a very tactful illusion.
Moving on, we hold hope high that the next exhibit will be as alluring in its aesthetic and as challenging in its concept. I have seen many impressive rooms filled with artwork or giant sculptures yet truly, none had prepared me for this. Perhaps, close enough would be Memory by Anish Kapoor in the Guggenheim Museum, New York in 2010; however, still not as arresting. Confronted with simple design elements which fill a grand, concrete, cubic room composed from every perspective. The adjustments in scale, material, colour, shape and composition were so precise and considered, one feels beckoned and surrenders in astonishment to time and place.
It was as though everything I have ever learnt in the education and profession of art, design and architecture was masterfully on display right before me and in its purest form. I think of the ancient Greco-Romans who used art to mimic the divine through the circle, the square and the triangle where perfection existed. I felt the divinity of my life’s focus and pursuit in this room, I didn’t want to leave; perhaps I have not.