Hiroshima Magazine -Issue 01-2 INTERVIEW / Artist TACHIBANA FUMIO

Dec 23, 2021

Hiroshima Magazine -Issue 01-2 INTERVIEW / Artist TACHIBANA FUMIO

Introduce part of the contents of THE KNOT HIROSHIMA Magazine which you can get or see at the reception desk. This time is the interview content of Mr.Fumio Tachibana who provided his arts on the 1st floor.

“Giving you a sense of Hiroshima is not my intention.”

In the entrance to THE KNOT HIROSHIMA, travelers and visitors are greeted by seven large format works. The artist, Fumio Tachibana, chose to exhibit these works inspired by the seven rivers of Hiroshima, the city in which he was born and raised.

“Each of the seven works that I chose, I chose because in some way I think it may have a little bit of Hiroshima in it.” Since he was around 30, Tachibana has been creating works based on Hiroshima. During this time, his perspective of his hometown has shifted, which he attributes to having pursued this particular creative direction.

“I remember crossing the Peace Bridge designed by Isamu Noguchi when I was little, and feeling like I was going to fall into the water below because the parapet was really low. I also recall seeing the Memorial Cathedral for World Peace ever present as part of the scenery.

But when you become an adult, you realize that these structures exist in Hiroshima with completely different meanings. The more you learn about Noguchi, the more amazing it is he was involved in projects here, and the more the cityscape you thought you knew so well, changes. The moment I realized this, Hiroshima became special to me again.”

This shift in his sense of the landscape is made visual with paper and ink, and is layered with subtleties. For example, “Pressing your face against white paper, ink seeps out and around your face. Or thick lead spreading to every corner of the outline.” is a collage work that Tachibana created when he was in his mid-30s.

“I once heard someone say ‘there is a universe in there,’ about the marginal zone* of the printed text, and it got me thinking. This work was created while reflecting on this observation, which overlapped with my vision of Hiroshima.

For me, Hiroshima’s history is not my own, and one that I am reliving through what I hear and learn. I know I can ever quite experience it fully, no matter how hard I try. Regardless, I like to conceptualize Hiroshima while creating my works.” Tachibana added, laughing, “So these works may bring about a sense of Hiroshima to those who see it. Or maybe not.”

In other words, Tachibana does not want to impose viewers with his understanding or his sense of Hiroshima through his works.

If there were a common denominator in selecting each of these seven works for THE KNOT, it would be that the inspiration Hiroshima provided can be forever immortalized on paper.

“No matter where you are born and raised, I think everyone has a turning point in their life where they start to see their hometown differently. For viewers looking at these works, I hope it leads to a similar personal feeling for each viewer, like rediscovering something that is important to you.”

Tachibana explains that although he produces a wide variety of works on Hiroshima, he finds it difficult to talk about his hometown in words. He admits to feeling almost embarrassed trying to do so, and so instead puts these feelings and thoughts into art.

*Marginal zone: the overflowing outline of ink that occurs at the edge of a printed image or spot.

“I want to produce art that is different from art that pursues only phenomena.”

Tachibana uses letters, paper, and books as materials for artistic expression, and has received recognition both in Japan and overseas for his diverse work. His creativity stems from his experience helping out at the family bookbinding business in a factory in Hiroshima City: touching paper, writing letters, and printing. Every day he would fold, peel, and count paper, he said.

“Even today, when I say printing I mean the process of taking a particular image, data, or source, pressing it, then creating a duplicate. I think it’s fun to see that relationship, like a parent and a child, where a dot on paper blossoms into an image. Because I am interested in process and formation, sometimes the final piece is not as important to me.

Nowadays, artists focus on achieving excessive beauty and realism, but I wonder if that really is good for people. Perhaps something like halftone dots in old printed materials appeal to the human senses more than something that is so clearly visible.”

The specifications of visual communication design are evolving day-by-day, but the needs from clients remain unchanged. Tachibana wants to elicit responses from the basic senses: from the human eye to the touch of a hand, through expressions by ink, paper, and print.

“Until now, you could intuitively understand what you see as you could touch and feel it, but now we turn pages with just a swipe of the finger. Paper has myriad thickness and textures, but the range that I can actually imagine now is pretty limited. Without the experience of touching, you can’t comprehend it.
No matter how convenient current technology may be, I think human beings will always crave feeling. I don’t want to be nostalgic for nostalgic sake, I just want to keep my senses active.

For example, the ink color in this work is basically printed twice: the first print is left to dry, and the dried print is put through the printing press again. If I just wanted to see the color, I wouldn’t have to do that, but I don’t want to show the existence of the ink color, I want to see its substance.”

Tachibana’s father has an anecdote about when he was given the task of bookbinding the list of names of victims of the atomic bomb. Each time a life is lost, a name is written down, printed on paper and bound together into a book. The significance of the letters, the weight of turning the pages, and the gaze of the reader. It is precisely because he values these emotional responses that this overlay of printed expression is so profound.

He wants to produce art that is different from art that pursues only phenomena. As well as visible phenomena, in Tachibana’s work there are invisible entities and other aspects that are left to the viewer’s senses. When viewing his works, travelers are given an empty suitcase through which to encounter Hiroshima for themselves.

“What’s the appeal of Hiroshima?”

“It’s been over 30 years since I left the city, so I’ve actually lived in Tokyo longer. Even so, every time I arrive at Hiroshima Station and get off the train, my shoulders relax. That’s the kind of city it is.”

Asking Tachibana about why he thought this was so, he said it was the atmosphere. And in response to a question about the city’s appeal and attractions, he said “Does Hiroshima have any charms? I don’t know.” It seems automatic to want to recommend popular sights like the Atomic Bomb Dome and Itsukushima Shrine, but he hesitates as he questions whether he would truly recommend them.

“Rather than recommending certain places, I simply want you to want to come to Hiroshima. I think everyone should come here at least once. As each individual experiences Hiroshima differently, I think it’s up to them to decide how they feel. I don’t think it’s right for me to tell people what to think. In saying that though, I do think you should definitely eat okonomiyaki!”

Tachibana set up an atelier in Hiroshima around 10 years ago, and during busy periods he returns two or three times a month. I want to know why he makes the over four hour Shinkansen journey to travel here from Tokyo.

“When my father’s bookbinding factory closed, I wanted to make books using the machines at his factory, so I opened a workshop in the city. The reason I come to Hiroshima is to work, but I also look for jobs to create a reason to come here.”

The aspects that attract Tachibana to the city seem to be dispersed throughout. Where are they?

“Yeah, good question. I have a special place in my heart for the West Peace Bridge designed by Isamu Noguchi. The bridge is so close to the water I get that floaty feeling in my stomach like when you’re on a roller coaster. It’s fun to feel that in everyday life. I also like the pillars of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. I go there every year, and even though I know the pillars by sight, I never realized they had such a strange shape.”

There is a nostalgic element too, of course. Tachibana’s soul food is the chai and cheesecake from “Pinkerton’s Souk”, a place he has been visiting since he was a student. When he gets off the train at Hiroshima Station, he still stops by before
heading to his parents’ house.

“This town where you’ve come to visit has been the backdrop to our daily life since we were born. When I was growing up, August 6th was a mandatory school day for us, and we were raised with an education about peace. But visitors here don’t need to know all that, and I hope you can see and feel what Hiroshima is just by being present here.”

When you consider that architect Kenzo Tange and numerous other famous creators have left their mark on this city, you realize it is just that kind of city. Looking at the Atomic Bomb Dome being restored, Tachibana has mixed feelings, saying “I don’t know if it’s being repaired, destroyed, or left forgotten.”
For him, Hiroshima is a city that is perhaps always asking him something.

Listening to Tachibana and seeing his works makes you want to go out immediately and experience Hiroshima in your own way. Go, see what you can discover.

Fumio Tachibana
Born in Hiroshima, 1968, Fumio Tachibana acquired his M.A. degree from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music after earning his B.A. at Musashino Art University, Department of Visual Communication Design. His main solo exhibitions include: “Design Tachibana Fumio”, ggg (Tokyo, 2011); MADE IN U .S.A., Sagacho Exhibit Space (Tokyo, 1995); and more. His publications include: Shape of My Shadow (2014), Kyu-Tai (Magazine) vol.1 to 8 (2007-2019), Leaves Fumio Tachibana (Seibundo Shinkosha Publishing, 2015), Katachi no Mikata (Seibundo Shinkosha Publishing, 2013), Clara (2000) and more.

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