A gallery owner from Azumino:-
At this time of the year, Azumino looks like a colorful painting mixed with authenticity and western touch-traditional houses, flourishing golden-red autumn leaves and a few western style inns are dispersed around the city.
Since we only had 1 day spent in Azumino, we decided to rent a car to tour around the city. At the beginning, we planned to visit at least a few art galleries apart from the museum. But, since we spent 3 hours just at the Wasabi farm, we were running late for everything else. After visiting Chihiro Art Museum, it’s already 17:30 and most of the galleries would have closed. We were trying to gear it up anyway and reach the gallery mentioned in the map of our guidebook. But, the sun was gone and the street posts were not really helpful, we were driving around to nowhere. In about half an hour, we finally came across a hidden sign and made it to this gallery which is surrounded by the woods, and where the house was still lit up with cozy lights.
As soon as I entered into this gallery, I felt like I was being in Scandinavia. The gallery house is built by wood and in a minimal style that reminds me of my childhood memory spending in Sweden-the intimate and harmonious connection with the nature that revolved around our lives. The artworks presented in the galleries are all handmade objects and created by the artists based in Azumino, ranging from ceramic, woodwork to glasswork. All the objects are in their irregular forms reflecting the dynamic and various energies and the fairy-tale kind of fantasy the artists have interacted with and projected through the objects. I particularly like one of the ceramic cups collection presented in the gallery. The shape of the cups are wildly twisted by the artist with the material which give more dimensions to the cups and sensations to the user. I bought one home and realize the tea that I drink seems tasting differently whenever I change the perspective I hold the cup.
At the last part of the gallery, there’s a classy cafe corner and that evening, the owner of the gallery was serving tea and coffee for us using our choice of cup and saucer. Sitting by the window sipping the tea, it was definitely a moment of comfort and a great way to having introspection.
Profiting from this very valuable moment, I had a chat with the gallery owner about this house of arts.
How long has the art gallery been operating?
Owner: I have been running this gallery for 10 years.
Are you a native from Azumino?
Owner: No. I came from another city.
Then, what brought you here?
Owner: I was a businessman before but one time I visited Azumino Ehonkan museum and that experience had greatly inspired me for revisiting what’s important in life. Azumino is a special place. It brings about feeling of relaxation, harmonious and contentment for oneself. That’s what I had been looking for.
How do you select the artworks for your gallery?
Owner: it’s coming from within and based on my personal impression.
When you decided to run your gallery here, did this house already exist?
Owner: No. I just felt that I wanted to run my own gallery here. So, I built this gallery from scratch in this land.
For the last 10 years, have you ever come across any difficulty running this gallery?
Owner: There has not been much difficulty. It’s just that at the very beginning, since I hadn’t had the practical experience about how to run an exhibition for the artworks collection, the artist friends and neighbors were being supportive and helping me through.
What’s the vision of running this gallery?
Owner: To present Azumino to the world.
It’s true. On the surface, running an art gallery makes no difference than running a business, except the fact that they are arts. And the more famous and popular the artwork is, the higher price the art gallery could sell. So, galleries in general are trying to look for artists who have this kind of potential and presence in the art market. That was what I discussed with my Portuguese architect friends before-how we always come across a kind of similar style of Chinese contemporary artworks presenting vigorously in galleries with a tendency of saying “I am a pricey artwork, please buy me as your investment”.
But, what actually missing is what I had found in this particular gallery: first, the owner of the gallery prefers keeping the gallery and himself in low key; even though he’s been running the gallery for 10 years, Azumino is always his base. Rather than thinking about how to get the brand heard internationally, he prefers putting the focus about what’s matter to and represents him. And, instead of following the market norm and sell the artworks based on what’s popular in the market, he chooses to follow his hunch and loyal to where the artists are based–that’s exactly what I found – a spirit of Japanese-ness of purity, sincerely and perfection.
To taste this serene and refined spirit, next time when you go to Azumino, remember to look for Steine’s.