KOBO, Tokyo


White Memories

The “Okuno Building” (built in 1932 by Ryoichi Kawamoto) stands on a side street off the hustle and bustle of Ginza Dori, giving off the distinct feel of the Show Era. It has been a while since I last entered this building. Memories carved out of times past are burrowed in every corner of its interior.
A young woman, camera in hand, is taking photographs of the staircase, the pillar covered in carpeted tiling, and the walls.
I slip past her to quietly climb the stairs.
The exhibit is on the third floor and the basement.

I start on the third floor.
I look around the room which is painted uniformly in white. By the entrance is a piece with deck screws across its base. A ceramic ship sits atop a low wooden base. In the back there is a disc placed upon a metallic circle, which is ceramic , too . These three pieces are the large ones. There are two other pieces, both small boats, placed by the window. Stirring waters, rousing waves and blowing winds; this installation invokes memories of a ship gliding over ocean waters. There is no title indicated.

I start with the piece with the ship sitting atop the wooden base, whose head and stern flow into one another as part of an acute angle.

It glides across the ocean bathed in sunlight. The protrusions on the ship’s body each represent a happening from the past.

Each of the happenings simultaneously connects intermittently to the surface of the disc positioned behind them, yet remains in juxtaposition. Each one, a happening from the past. The abundant plasticity of ceramics makes it a perfect choice to express this imagery. Painful life events, as though healed though the passage of time, are embraced by the white clay powders. Layers of imagery from his memories float out into a white space. Putting ceremonial usage aside, they say that white is the color most preferred by the Japanese. “White” defuses expression and is also a medium that neutralizes the ups and downs. Though it suggests the existence of those happenings already past, it serves also as a harbinger of things to come and portends the end of others. The “white” of ceramic clay is all those things. It is the water that allows us to consider the origins of time immemorial. It is memory infused with the ocean and water.

This space is the primal scene of memories through which the artist has lived.

After, I descend to the other floor.
Through the door spreads a space that appears to be floating in the deep sea. Strings of small pebbles strung together are hung randomly from the ceiling. They are floating memories in the deepest part of our consciousness. There, time passes tranquilly. The pebbles float above, hinting at the existence of happenings past. Under the lights of the room, the pebbles appear white. As though the focus was on those unearthed memories. It was there that the image of all the many happenings taking cover under this “white” memory was born.
I stood there for quite some time.

There are definitely things that exist in this world that do not loudly assert their presence.
Each happening, accompanied by a variety of images, exists quietly in hushed tones and breaths.
We all look for things that support our life paths and at times lose sight along the way. And then we realize that the minutiae with their small hushed breaths are exactly what has supported us all along. Deep within our consciousness, the minutiae turns into a buried memory. As light is shed on the primal source and water collects around it, “white” appears as the medium which elucidates its presence.

Antonio Lucci, the Italian philosopher said that “Memory itself is art and represents the union of multiple categories of art. In ancient Greek mythology, the Goddess of Memory, Mnemosyne, is the mother of the Muses, which shows, in one sense, that the Greeks clearly understood this matter.”

Memory is not something that leaves one specific impression in the past. It constantly springs forth and is characterized by being reconfigured upon retrieval. It also expounds the present and transitions while projecting into the future.

Takatoshi Katayama has given considerable thought to how memory, the primal source of much art, should circle into our field of vision. His deliberate technique allows us to realize the shape and form of memory in a quietly thoughtful way. This is Katayama’s own exposition and at the same time, something we have all been searching for.

Feeling purified, I exited the building.
Dusk had fallen; I was surrounded by a winter darkness.

Hidekazu Izui, (Former Chief Curator of The Museum of Modern Art , Saitama)

KOBO, Tokyo


One day towards the end of 2013, I peeked through the entrance of an old building with telltale signs of its age located on a back street by Exit 10 of the Ginza-Itchome subway station. Then unexpectedly, I felt an ancient memory rise from deep inside my brain.

I followed the light overflowing out the glass doors and was lead into a brightly lit room.

In the middle of the room was a 3×3 grid of nine vertically aligned metallic prismatic forms. Without even a moment to figure out what they were, my eyes alighted on a circular composition on the wall made of seven mysterious white forms that looked like excavated fossils of man made materials. When I turned back to see the shadows cast by the nine metallic forms, five white figures appeared in a row on the opposite wall as though conjured from memory. They were shaped like scale models of enormous buildings from long ago. It made me feel as though I had unwittingly stepped into a magic square. On the hallway wall was a long thin metallic plank with a tool-like brass handle. Its polished shine reflected light while maintaining equilibrium. What was its use, I wondered. Could it be bronze? I looked back at the base of the nine metallic prismatic forms once again. Crudely carved compass needless teetered atop each form. I pushed one with my finger then the others moved in unison. Was this a trick of sorts?

As I stood surrounded by forms of what looked like remains of a legendary ancient civilization, I began to trip. Had Atlantis really existed, this room may very well be an incarnate record of it. The moment this thought crossed my mind, the formally silent room was overtaken by a constant buzz that called to mind the vigor and wisdom of an ancient civilization. Detailed carvings covered the surface of the ceramic objects on the wall. I heard the voice of my altered state of consciousness say that matter is but memory storage. Just as I was being swallowed into a vortex of anonymous memories, my consciousness pulled me back to remind me that the exhibit continued into the basement gallery. The feeling of having lived through this time period and civilization persisted. And so I proceeded down the stairs intending to prolong this sensation.

Once in the dimly-lit basement I could see a space defined by solid light and shadow beyond the glass doors. A few dozen iron rods, roughly 1 cm diameter in size, arranged in subtly angled clusters from floor to ceiling played off one another as a hidden light source emitted a radial shadow pattern. The space itself was minimalistic, cold and strained; however, it also conveyed the organic nature of a bamboo forest. Standing in the room reset the unfolding story from earlier and I was met instead with a sudden wave of solitude that made me dizzy.

Averting my eyes from the metal rods, I looked outside the room toward the dead space under the stairs. I noticed the circular light emitted from a small naked light bulb hung from the slanted ceiling. I could faintly see something beneath it… was it a coffin?

I stepped closer to what looked like a black coffin-like box and saw that its cover was made of bumpy clay plates placed together like puzzle pieces. The linear intersections cast shadows along the straight-edged seams of the individual plates and made it look as though it was a diorama of vast tracts of land with artificial boundaries. Under the light of the sun, this diorama born of earth, water and fire cast a shadow to produce a detailed three-dimensional map and then with its enormous corpse, the coffin faded into the strata.

On the surface was a hill, a valley with water running through it, and a plain that had been leveled by the wind. While following the few manmade ridges and geoglyph-like hollows scattered across the land by sight, a road appeared where nothing existed before and when I realized it, I was looking down at the earth from high above. What I had considered to be a record of an ancient civilization also looked to be representing a landscape from a distant life in the future that had ceased to exist.

The world reproduced by Katayama Takatoshi showcases a meticulous perspective that manipulates scale and time. The balance between the unwavering harmony of our mysterious universe and the finite nature of civilizations and the human life cycle overwhelmed me. It felt as though I had been casually shown the elusive identity of “beauty”. Life borrows the form of the human body to temporarily defect into this world and then returns back to harmony. Could this world be a huge coffin and everything in it mere relics? From Katayama’s world composed of stationary objects, I sensed a vital force reverberating like white noise.

Mario Tauchi / mario mandala (Artist / Literary Agent)

KOBO, Tokyo


Sea of Noctiluca Light

On a moonless night, the waves are heavy and quiet, undulating slowly while the reflection of light from the fishing vessels offshore flicker across the water. In contrast to the lethargic clamoring of daytime, the evening sea is tight with tension and it is difficult to quietly approach this proud body of pitch black water. I approach, not knowing whether I will be rejected or accepted. The lukewarm sea water clings to my body. In a flash, I sense that the ocean could be one big creature and the fear that it may swallow me whole stiffens my body.

With trepidation, I wade through quietly, moving my arms through the water and see countless sea sparkles. Time stops and I cannot speak. Silently, I float my legs up and begin to swim and see the bioluminescence ripple outward. I cup the water and watch the light sparkle in my hand. It is as if I were tossed somewhere in the universe amidst a sea of stars. I wonder if this is the Milky Way or perhaps even heaven.

Immense gratitude for being born wells up inside me and I cannot help but feel the sheer miracle of being alive at that moment.

Miracles are everywhere; being alive itself is a miracle.

Three decades have gone by since I started creating artwork but it is only recently that I have finally started creating spontaneously. Quite a while ago, I attached philosophical reasoning to why I was creating, but now, there is no such reasoning. I have stopped thinking.

The call of birds and cicadas echoing through the crisp morning air, an egret nestled in a rice paddy, the sound of wind tapping the window, a rain shower—the world is incredibly beautiful and just seeing the beauty cleanses the soul.

I have no interest in words or theory. I simply just want to create beautiful things.

Aug 2015 Katayama Takatoshi

Awajicho Gallery, Tokyo


What does “seeing” mean? Is it possible for us to just see, free from all our fantasies, beliefs,memories, knowledge, and experiences?

Katayama Takatoshi


For instance, when we happen to meet an acquaintance on the street, communication starts up based on our memories about that person. If our memories are vague, we might pass him or her by without recognizing them. Naturally and unconsciously, we depend on our memories in our daily lives. On the other hand, we are highly sensitive to the present “atmosphere” of a person. Even as we speak, “Hasn’t it been a while? How are you doing?” we think toourselves, “He’s gotten rather mild,” or “She looks worn out.” It may be caused by the sixth sense or animal intuition in us. Furthermore, our current mental state affects our reaction to the other person. Our conversation style would likely vary whether we are feeling good or bad. In fact, the impression we give to the other person, as well as our own views about that person changes every moment.

In a sense, we are in contact with the world through a double or triple filter that is composed of memories, emotions, and feelings. These filters constantly work as components for building an existence that is uniquely “me,” commonly called identity. They are also the main factors that individualize us, although they also hold the possibility for us to lose a direct feeling when we are in contact with the world. While it may not be the only cause, for example, some of us may look at reality as if it is some kind of a TV show, or we may get into a conflict by misinterpreting each other’s filters during mutual communication. Under complex and changeable situations in communicating with others, we are often confined by the identity we have consigned to ourselves, and we may possibly lose sight of our real selves, or become unable to keep balance with the outside world.

Mr. Katayama’s hometown is located in the outskirts of Numazu, a small coastal city in Shizuoka Prefecture. It only takes a couple of seconds to walk to the beach from his parents’house. There, fishery is prosperous, and it’s a kind of place where you can see folks making dried fish, and turning around, you can see a row of small mountains. By these descriptions, you would imagine there is a wealth of natural surroundings. On the contrary, a short walk in the opposite direction of the ocean would lead you to a rather stuffy road, narrow, but heavy with traffic. Moving further down the road in the direction of Mt. Fuji, you would see more and more tall buildings, as it takes you to the Numazu Station area.

The adherence to the ship form and water in Mr. Katayama’s works, the coexistence of nature worship and urbanity, and the way he retains balance between intention and contingency, unreality and reality, I suppose, has developed as a result of the environment in which he grew up.”By baking clay at a high temperature, the work acquires a unique texture that cannot be controlled intentionally.” His technique is in itself the realization of his sense of balance for establishing a real existence of himself in the world. In the works made through this technique, a kind of severity and an enormous capacity to embrace are both there. Instead of forcing the expression onto the viewer, they ask the viewer of a clear consciousness.

It is a feeling like standing alone amidst silent mountains. From a scenic point in the hills, you can see only the sky and mountains. Soon, the sun begins to slowly set beyond the distant mountains, and the surrounding scenery gradually gets dimmer. Beyond loneliness and fear, it is when memories and emotions are diluted, as the identity that constructs myself fades, and the filters between the surrounding scene and me melt away…No sound is heard. Still, I hear pure music called “silence.”

It is music like that I hear from Mr. Katayama’s works.

Morihide Sawada (Musician)

巷房 / KOBO




巷房 / KOBO


巷房 / KOBO


巷房 / KOBO




Tokai Aluminum Foil Co., Ltd. 100th Anniversary, Kanagawa

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