space

Shoji Ueda on the Sand Dunes

 

It never crossed my mind that photography could be such a good medium for surrealism, but here’s Shoji Ueda (植田正治).

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Hat, 1980

At first, I walked pass “My Wife on the Dunes” painted on the exterior wall of a building in low resolution, and thought the human figures were photoshopped onto the landscape. The composition was interesting so I took a picture of the wall. A few days later when I visited the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, there was a series of prints by Shoji Ueda on display, and I realized “oh, that’s what it was”.

That being said, it’s a fair question to ask: If it’s the same image, does it really matter whether the human figures were real or photoshopped? I think it does. When we see an image, the sense of vision elicits emotions and thoughts. But it’s not just the sense of vision, we also take into account the story behind the image. The viewer’s response is different depending on the story, so I’d say the story is part of the artistic expression in this sense.

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My Wife on the Dunes, 1950

The sand dunes near his home are his stage to pose family members and friends. For me, the most fascinating aspect of Shoji Ueda’s works is the creative use of space. I can’t put it into words so I’ll quote Mark Rothko from his essay “Space”:

If one understands, or if one has the sensibility to live in, the particular kind of space to which a painting is committed, then he has obtained the most comprehensive statement of the artist’s attitude toward reality. Space, therefore, is the chief plastic manifestation of the artist’s conception of reality.

This explains why different art lovers go to different artists to satisfy themselves. Some prefer Raphael, some castigate them. The same is true of Giotto and Titian and the thousands of other masters who were so plentifully produced in those great times. In the case of none of these masters are the opponents unaware of their great qualities. These castigations are simply the result of differences of spatial faith.