Toshiya Murakoshi’s silent landscapes speak the language of grief and memory. 

The Japanese photographer’s serene panoramic works articulate his patient dedication to Fukushima as well as the art of photography itself.

Toshiya Murakoshi, 'A gradual thaw', installation view at Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film, 9 January – 13 February 2016. Photo: Kenji Takahashi.

Toshiya Murakoshi, ‘A gradual thaw’, installation view at Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film, 9 January – 13 February 2016. Photo: Kenji Takahashi.

“A gradual thaw”, a solo exhibition of Toshiya Murakoshi presented by Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film, runs from 9 January to 13 February 2016. Showcasing large panoramic works shot between 2011 and 2015, the exhibition is the first of Murakoshi’s to exclusively feature panoramic images.

The power of landscape 

Toshiya Murakoshi (b. 1980, Sukagawa, Fukushima prefecture) has photographed his hometown repeatedly since 2006. His landscapes are serene yet powerful, silent yet evocative, appearing to “trace his memories of time spent in his hometown”, according to the exhibition press release.

Toshiya Murakoshi, 'A gradual thaw', 2011-2015, 60 x 180 cm. Image courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film, Tokyo. © Toshiya Murakoshi.

Toshiya Murakoshi, ‘A gradual thaw’, 2011-2015, 60 x 180 cm. Image courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film, Tokyo. © Toshiya Murakoshi.

For the artist, the barren landscape is able to preserve the most potent of feelings and memories – even more so than portraits containing human beings and loved ones. He writes for an earlier exhibition at Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film in 2013:

[My grandmother] passed away in April […] I continued to go back to my parents’ house to take photographs […] I noticed that I could feel her presence more strongly from the photographs taken around my house than those taken of her […] Memories will fade out little by little […] but I realized that the fragments of memory that were etched into a little landscape where I spent with her will remain from now on. The landscape which seemed nothing much to me before, has become a beautiful memory now.

Toshiya Murakoshi, 'A gradual thaw', 2011-2015, 60 x 180 cm. Image courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film, Tokyo. © Toshiya Murakoshi.

Toshiya Murakoshi, ‘A gradual thaw’, 2011-2015, 60 x 180 cm. Image courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film, Tokyo. © Toshiya Murakoshi.

Turning back the hands of time

In recent works, Toshiya Murakoshi continues to manipulate the malleability of time and space through his monumental landscapes. “A gradual thaw” evokes the ghost of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake in his beloved hometown: even though Nakadori was not affected by the tsunami, “many things had changed despite the normal appearance”, he writes in the exhibition press release. The passage reads:

My childhood home is in Nakadori, Fukushima, which was not affected by the tsunami […] the landscape remained virtually unchanged. I knew, however, [that] many things had changed despite the normal appearance […] Image[s] produced in Fukushima from now on would inescapably accompanied by the subtexts of the earthquake and nuclear power.

Toshiya Murakoshi, 'A gradual thaw', installation view at Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film, 9 January – 13 February 2016. Photo: Kenji Takahashi.

Toshiya Murakoshi, ‘A gradual thaw’, installation view at Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film, 9 January – 13 February 2016. Photo: Kenji Takahashi.

Murakoshi’s landscapes can thus be read as studies of personal and collective grief. For the artist, photography was a way of thinking and processing trauma and disaster. He writes:

When the earthquake and nuclear disasters occurred, I felt that I would no longer be able to shoot as I had been doing. Without knowing what to do, I returned to my hometown ten days after the quake […] I kept on asking myself what I wanted to do. The answer did not come easily and I decided to continue to shoot Fukushima for myself, as I had been doing. Whatever appeared in front of me, I wanted to see it with my own eyes, shoot it, and think about it.

Toshiya Murakoshi, 'A gradual thaw', installation view at Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film, 9 January – 13 February 2016. Photo: Kenji Takahashi.

Toshiya Murakoshi, ‘A gradual thaw’, installation view at Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film, 9 January – 13 February 2016. Photo: Kenji Takahashi.

A thawing silence

Toshiya Murakoshi’s powerful landscapes have been published in numerous photobooks and exhibited in individual and group exhibitions both inside and outside Japan. A recipient of the Sagamihara Photograph New Face Incentive Award in 2015, the artist’s works are included in the collections of the National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

According to the 2013 exhibition press release, “[t]he whole process from shooting to printing is a single act for [Toshiya Murakoshi]”, one which weaves together various time and space axes. For the artist, photography is a means to understand his own inner self by thawing the rigidity of time and memory. Refraining from verbally addressing what he saw or felt, the artist instead employs the silent yet meditative and therapeutic process of image-making. He writes:

I didn’t need a reason to shoot my hometown after all. I’m not sure that what I do is what photography is about, but I’m convinced that shooting Fukushima is photography and I will continue to do so.

Michele Chan

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Related Topics: Japanese artists, photography, art and the environmentgallery shows, events in Tokyo

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Brittney

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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