Naoshima: The Island of Inspiration

This piece was originally written for Creative Review magazine. I’ve posted the beginning of it here, along with some of my own photographs of the island. (Ferry ticket machine pictured above. I took the first morning boat over to Naoshima. I was, it’s safe to say, super-over-excited.)

I’m standing in a hut in pitch darkness and a man is trying to tell me what to do. In Japanese. This is something of a problem, as I don’t speak the language, and he clearly doesn’t speak English. As he gently presses on my shoulders, I attempt to take a seat and promptly sit on someone’s lap. Whispered apologies and slightly hysterical, hushed giggles ensue before I find a space on the bench and then quiet falls. As we continue to sit there in the darkness, a faint glow begins to shine gently. It’s like the dawn of sight, and it’s all part of the masterplan. In James Turrell’s Minamidera, the perception of light is a matter of careful design. And in an age when ‘experience’ has become the focal point of so many advertising, branding and marketing campaigns, here the experience is all there is.

A modern art mecca
Light plays an important role in many of the galleries and installations on Naoshima, a small island off the south coast of Japan that in recent years has become something of a modern art mecca. Three galleries feature works by artists such as Bruce Nauman, Walter de Maria and Lee Ufan. The buildings were designed by Tadao Ando, the self-taught Japanese architect who predominantly uses cast-in-place concrete, with steel, wood and glass, in his structures. On Naoshima, light is his fifth element.

Read the rest of this piece here.

Yayoi Kusama's iconic Pumpkin sculpture
This is the roof of the public bathroom designed by Tadao Ando, in Honmura
The view from deep within Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Go’o Shrine
The sleepy fishing village of Honmura
Shinro Ohtake’s piece for the Art House Project in Honmura includes a replica Statue of Liberty punching her way through one of the floors of the building
A real life lily pond, mimicking those found in the Monet paintings on show at the Chichu Art Museum
The view from my hotel room
Gazing down into the outdoor gallery featuring photography by Hiroshi Sugimoto
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