Toshiya Kobayashi Official Site
Landscape in The Mist

Kobayashi Toshiya takes personal, valued objects and embeds them in art works so they appear as if they will be preserved for eternity. For example, in one work he writes a diary or story on paper and then uses "white out" to cover the letters one by one; in Letters from an Old Man, he makes a book comprising a series of correspondences with a author and then seals it so it can never be opened; in Landscape in The Mist and Dark Forest he paints a ,forest scene on canvas and then smears white or black paint over top.
By covering something or smearing paint Kobayashi succeeds in stimulating the viewer's imagination. Haniya Yutaka(Author and novelist, 1909-97) had words of advice for Kobayashi: " Toshiya, do not go out into the world, You should pretend you're dead, as extreme as that sounds." Kobayashi says he continues to discover who he really is and "creates art in order to become a different person from the one I am now. " Because he is very interested in the individual existence of the self as well as in "existence" and " non-existence," he reaches expressions that dare to erase the subject. Kobayashi is showing here photographic works created while living in Germany, which were inspired by the engulfing of in a thick fog in the Bremen suburbs. Perhaps he experienced the strong presence of a deep forest behind that all-enveloping fog, or felt that he had become immersed in oneof his own works. His response was no drive down the Bremen Autobahn at 200 kph and make numerous photographs of that fog. The color and intensity of the light in those forest scenes, captured by a camera with a shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second, change gradually with subtle variations in time and position. Although the appearance of the forest zipping past in a fraction of a second cannot be perceived clearly, the photographs, as if to counter the speed of the car, convey a powerful sense of nature's presence behind the fog, a nature that has continued forever. As in an ink painting , Kobayashi's work paradoxically emphasizesthe subject's presence by erasing the details and leaving only the essence, and in doing splendidly manifests his ideas.


Mitsuyo Ogawa (curator of MORI ART MUSEUM)
from catalogue of "ELEGANCE OF SILENCE" MORI ART MUSEUM, Tokyo, Japan





'Each of us is merely being, merely an experiment, a way station.'
The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

Mist as the Matiere

When I graze at Toshiya Kobayashi's photographic scenes that are taken i a misty atmosphere, I cannot help but perceive " a meaningful absence" (1) that lies somewhere between existence and non-existence. Mist can manifest a serene, sacred feeling of enchantment by isolating the world in which individual beings softly breathe. In that world, chirping birds, murmuring brooks, and stirring branches are something like flowers created out of nothingness. Viewers of his work will not be looking beyond the mist, as distance and time have all but disappeared from the scenes. Thus, viewers will simply be drawn toward "the something" that exists within the space between the scenes and "I" that is present in those scenes in the mist.

The moisture perceived from his scenes slowly infiltrates into the viewers' bodies, turning into solemn solitude. The acts as " the beginning of sublime," which is the true passage leading to the non-self (the external world). It is also something like a force of gravity that steers viewers towards the core of life(2). Kobayashi's works open the door to that solitude.

While driving at 200 km/hr on highway from Hamburg to Bremen, Kobayashi's scenes in the mist were taken at a shutter speed of 1/2000 so that he could "see" one-of-kind instances. Those instances must have been a succession of "flashes" that captured his mind. The "flashes" he captured were dependent on how the state of his soul in the depths of his eyes saw the world. The invisible motif of "mist" is the primary element that provides a clear view in the scenes. Hence, there is nothing mysterious . That clarity can perhaps be called a lucid determination. It was my first experience to perceive such a sentiment from his work.

Until recently, Kobayashi aspired to "see" through his acts of erasing the world. He erased his diary, his letters and landscapes, as well as colors. He erased his daily life, his emotions and his dreams from his works. However, where those silent beings exist, that is, from beyond the "materialistic transcendence," his works manifest a certainty that is solid and nihilistic, while also manifesting a sense of fragility. That is the reason why his works possess a beautiful and ephemeral solitude like that mist.






Isao Yamada, Film Artist

from catalogue of Osaka Contemporary Art center, Osaka, Japan

Note 1. Atsushi miyagawa, " Shihen to Manazashi tono Aidani" (In Between Paper Fragment and Graze)
Note 2. Shigeru Shimizu, " Katayama Toshihiko: Shi to Sanbun" (Katayama Toshihiko: Poem and prose)


Letter from an old man

What looks like a small monochrome black picture at first glance, turns out to be a kind of book when you look at it from the side. The white paper pages lie tightly pressed between two wooden boards. They are placed irregularly on top of each other so a relief-like surface is created. The book is open to all sides. However , the book cover and pages must be firmly connected to each other for they are not held together by any visible construction.
They cover board is at the same time the ground of a monochrome picture. The paint is applied in fine vertical structures and thickens at the side edges where it projects irregularly over the wood. If the pages were ever written on with a story or something else, it is no longer accessible. It left up to the viewer to imagine something. The size would indicate that a great deal was written. But is this true? Have the pages perhaps remained blank? Black paintings absorb the light, are the cancellation of all coloration and representation. They are beginning and end.
The book is a metaphor for safeguarding, memory. Writing is directed at another person. If it is closed, it can no longer serve the purpose of concrete recollection in the sense of bringing something past into the present or as communication. All possibilities arise in the dialogue with the viewer.

Hanne Zech (Director of Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen )
from catalogue of "66-03," Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen, Germany