Exploring one’s spiritual space and the concept of inner peace
Imagine yourself standing before a pine forest. Even in broad daylight, it’s like there’s only dusk among those trees. A strange form of expectation falls on you as you cross the border between your reality and that of the forest. The soft carpet of pine-needles makes everything sound muffled. Every movement – breaking twigs and startled birds – is unexpected and abundantly bandaged in silence. Your black and white eyes register the cool stillness of trees with a fleeting impression of sadness. Does anyone dare to speak? Does anyone feel an inner tension rise? You can also sometimes perceive clouds and very delicate strings of rain. The rain falls softly on the forest, and everything becomes a bit hazy and melancholic – there is a sense of loss.
These are not about lovely and peaceful landscapes that are just pleasing to the eye and exist simply to decorate a dining room. These are works that radiate a demanding silence and powerful omnipresent blackness. It is almost like an aggressive and physical silence that is building toward a burst of events.
The expression of inner peace
On first reading, the above description doesn’t seem to align with the theme of inner peace that appears frequently in Minato’s works. However, the viewer should understand that Minato’s peace is neither the fairy-tale type of happily-ever-after peace, nor the peace represented by white doves, nor political peace, nor spiritual peace often understood as the state of void or contentment with the self. It is not about peace of mind, but rather, peace in the mind – i.e. a spiritual space that the artist and viewer can transport themselves to at will. Everybody has their own private space – not in physical terms such as a house or room, but in psychological terms that could be described as a mental zone or playground where ideas and creativity are kept alive. In this spiritual place, self-determined goals and ideals are nurtured, and words such as beauty, love, wisdom, wealth, take on an intense personal meaning and fulfillment.
Minato notes that peace as a concept is constantly present in his conscious and subconscious – not in a passive state, but rather, in an active state of exploring a spiritual space. And notably, his happy memories of early childhood surrounded by nature and forests in particular, form a special bridge and symbolic meaning in his spiritual space. It is therefore no surprise that Minato’s artistic world is influenced and populated by images and concepts of nature. However, the influences are not solely of happiness. He notes that traumatic personal events have also guided his artistic vision and moreover, his need for such inner peace, shielded from the harsh realities of the external world. Therefore, this inner peace is always accompanied by the specter of loss, nostalgia, and even suffering.
This foray into inner peace and its meaning has always lent a special intensity to his works, and Minato considers this series of works under the title of “Air” as a further development of this artistic path. Whereas he was previously more concerned with giving form to his own inner world, he is now also interested in the open space around his works and the interaction they create in relation to each other’s physical placement. He explores physical space in a pervasive and minimalist manner through subtle arrangements of the canvases, taking particular care in the use of corners and paying attention to the general effect as well as local effect each work possesses. The works are designed to transcend their physical borders and create an atmosphere that expresses Minato’s inner world. The visitor is invited to enter this intimate space by taking in the whole and simultaneously focus in on particular works within the spiritual landscape.
About Minato’s techniques
The means Minato uses are relatively few and his methods are often almost detached and rational. In both his paintings and prints, some of the strokes are almost immaterial – a soft touch on the canvas that almost vibrates – and seem to float apart from the walls and into the air, surpassing the conventional constraints of physical borders. Other strokes exhibit a careful balance of strong light and darkness, with a fascination in controlled shades between extremes. In total, the works, both paintings and prints, are thrilling and delicately atmospheric, like true living landscapes.
Many of Minato’s paintings and prints are designed to work and relate in sub-series. In some sub-series, the ideas are subjected to various levels of magnification and are represented in a single impression. In others, static temporal details are fused together in one moment. In yet others, the focus is concentrated on the living force and form through the melding of abstract impressions of plant stems and animal spines – combining all forms of life. In this way, through combining a sense of intense magnification and superposition of impressions, Shichio Minato invites the viewer to discover his personal landscape.