A few months ago I wrote a post on the preparation for an upcoming exhibition I was very excited about – Richard Hoare’s solo exhibition, The Song of Koumi. During the first weekend of October 2018 I traveled to Nagano Prefecture once more to see the show. Read on for part two, the conclusion to this story and a video of my visit.
Richard’s exhibition was a success, with multiple newspapers picking up the story about the resident British artist painting the Koumi countryside.
Stepping into the light and airy Koumi Kougen Museum of Art, I could see why. The paintings have a life of their own. They play with form and ways of seeing. A painting which depicts a tree at twilight from one side of the room is really a disjointed series of marks when viewed up close. “Your brain fills in the rest,” says Richard. This, for me, is the charm of his work – Richard’s impressionistic way of working allows us to see the image we want to see.
My trip coincided with the unveiling of a particularly large piece to mark the mid-point of the exhibition. The preliminary sketches show how Richard combined the spiraling shape of a double helix into his impression of light cascading through leaves in the forest. This 4-meter piece was made to be displayed on one specific wall in the Museum – an example of harmony between art and architecture.
The exhibition was brilliantly comprehensive, with displays covering initial sketches, watercolour works, ink and oil paint. It was fascinating to be able to see the process by which Richard has refined, deconstructed and polished his images. His subjects included everything from reflections on placid lakes, to joyful leaping leaves dancing in the breeze.
Richard favours working outside. On some ink paintings, the marks where ice had frozen the ink to the paper even as he was still working on them were clearly visible. Richard’s work struck a chord with one of the visitors. Suguru from Nagano told me, “The work was all stunning, but the oil paintings with their gorgeous use of colour were particularly beautiful.” He also touched on Richard’s dynamic way of working. “Richard seems so earnest in his approach to his work around Koumi – visiting the mountains over and over, painting outside on days so cold the ink would freeze… Richard’s attitude really left an impression on me.”
The variety of work was in harmony with the space in which they were displayed. Koumi Kōgen Art Museum was designed by a master of natural light, Tadao Andō. The sweeping path into the gallery and the arrangement of the images within it was well thought out and drew me in as the visitor.
I talked to Richard about his exhibition and works.
“It begins with light, and ends with light, and continues after the end with light,” says Richard. The name of this exhibition is The Song of Koumi, and the concept that the years and seasons are a never-ending piece of music has been central to Richard’s work in Koumi. “All of these pictures are individual lines of one song, that has no beginning and no end.” Looking around the gallery, it’s easy to guess which paintings represent which season. The colours and shapes depicted give you a sense of the time of year, and sometimes even of the time of day that the painting represents.
He has documented the landscape around Koumi as the seasons bring changes to this dynamic landscape. “I painted in each season and documented this cycle,” he explains. “Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter.”
This seasonal progression was not lost on one visitor. “I don’t normally go to art galleries, but I thought that the lovely works at this exhibition really expressed the natural landscape and the changing seasons very beautifully. It’s like I could feel the mountain air and even the temperature of the places depicted,” Ayaka from Tokyo told me. “I really felt the love that Richard has for Koumi, and even though I’m visiting for the first time, I think his exhibition makes me like Koumi too.”
The work has taken Richard all over the mountains and forests of this beautiful natural area. After viewing the show, my companions and I took a walk into the hills above Koumi.
The setting sun brought out the yellow tones in the autumn leaves, and I could truly see the beauty that surrounds Koumi-machi Kougen Museum of Art.
Richard will be heading back to London with the conclusion of the exhibition, but I doubt that this will be the last we hear of his experiences in Koumi. The Song of Koumi will last until Sunday November 4th 2018. Find my previous blog post on Richard’s preparation for the exhibition here.
With special thanks to Ayaka, Suguru, Richard Hoare and Koumi Kougen Museum of Art.
Watch the video for my trip to Koumi below.