*Disclaimer; this post is essentially me visiting art galleries and probably includes a lot of irrelevant details and ramblings but I’m running out of space in my bag and this is my virtual notebook to keep my rucksack from getting weighed down by brochures!*
Despite the grim weather forecast I decided to crack on with my plans to visit Naoshima art island and boarded the ferry with not one sign of a cloud in the sky. Naoshima is part of the Benesse Art Project and the entire island has been transformed to display contemporary art in natural settings. As the ferry pulled in I was greeted by one of Yayoi Kusumi’s beautiful and brilliant pumpkin sculptures, so large that people were venturing inside its red and black spotty shell for a key naoshima photo opp. From there, with only a little rain starting to drizzle I headed off to the island’s Art House Project where artists had transformed vacant houses into artworks. The first one I stumbled upon was up a tree lined path (and coincidently was free for entry). The Go’o shrine was a building renovated by artist Hiroshi Sugimoto and had these beautiful glass brick steps joining one structure to another. I was soon handed a torch by a Japanese man with a lanyard who explained I was to head under the shrine into a little tunnel. The tunnel itself had only enough room for one person and drew you into a pitch black and really quite terrifying stone chamber where you could just make out in the distance some more of the beautiful glass steps heading back out to the surface. Whilst it was undoubtedly thought provoking as a space I was still a little creeped out so headed swiftly out to be greeted by the rain. Jonathan a fellow Englishman at my hostel had recommended that I head straight to the Art House called Minamidera if I wanted to budget and just pay to see one of the Art Houses so I followed his advice and finally found the huge black wooden building designed by Tadao Ando who was the architect responsible for most of the island’s galleries. Inside I was faced with another pitch black experience and told to keep hold of the wall until I found a bench. I was at this point leading (although I really would have rather avoided it) a big group of tourists so had to try and get it right! When I finally sat down we were explained by the guide at the door that this was an artwork by James Turrell and we were to wait still and quiet for 5 minutes until we began to see the light. Sure enough a huge white rectangle appeared in front of my eyes and myself and the other visitors were guided towards it. I put my hand out to feel what I assumed to be a big white light box but my hand slipped into this immeasurable white hazy void. The guide explained that there is no control of the light in the space instead the way it slowly fades into view is just your eyes adjusting to the light and it was incredible! I left suitably impressed and was forced soon enough onto the bus to head to the other galleries nearby with my toes already beginning to feel soggy with the now steady rain. The bus dropped us on a beach which would have been gorgeous in the sunshine but still offered beautiful views out to the ocean. In the distance I caught a glimpse of anther pumpkin sculpture and before the other tourists about could follow I sneaked off to admire it!
From there, the first gallery I saw was the Benesse House Museum and I have to say it was probably one of the best I have ever had the pleasure of visiting! Even just at the ticket booth there was a striking Giacometti sculpture followed by rooms upon rooms of amazing artworks! The gallery boasted pieces by David Hockney, Yves Klein, Cy Twombly, Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Bruce Nauman and Richard Long to name a few of my favourites! Even the space itself was designed in such a way that natural light flowed in and moving around the galleries felt effortless. Throughly impressed, from there I trudged through the now torrential rain to some shelter and to more amazing art at the Chichu Art Museum. Home to only 3 artists, again the architecture of the space was one of the most important aspects of the gallery. It was very clinical and concrete and myself and the other visitors were guided through by women in white lab coats. To enter each room we had to put on slippers and were constantly reminded to be quiet, at one point the pen I was making notes with was surreptitiously replaced with a pencil by a lab coat-clad attendant as even pens were prohibited in this space! I fell in love with James Turrell’s work here where continuing on from his art house project we were guided into various installations where light was presented as art including a huge purple light box/void again with seemingly endless space. There was also a huge bizarre shrine like installation by Walter De Maria and a space age white padded room with five gorgeous Monet Paintings from the Water Lily series. Feeling pretty well cultured I made my way back through the rain to the ferry and headed back to my little hostel to chill out with Jonathan and to warm up and dry off in our cosy common room space.
(Photos – View from the ferry, the beautiful yellow pumpkin, the entrance to the cavern thing under the shrine, the view back out from the cavern thing!, the yellow pumpkin, chichu art museum architecture, the shrine art house project, inside the red pumpkin! The red pumpkin, Haisha house Art House project by Shinro Ohtake – I just checked out the outside of this)