Visiting a gallery can be an unpredictable experience when you yourself are an artist. Will the work actually match in quality to the one magnificent painting often used in the advertisement? Is the artist going to be snooty, pretentious, unapproachable? Will they even be there for that matter? Then, there’s the most important question I learned from one of my University art professors; will the hors d’oeuvres be any good? I navigated the confusing back streets of Tokyo’s Nihombashi area, at last arriving at Jiro Miura Gallery in Nihombashi to find the answers to these burning questions. However, when I finally entered the cozy space, it was clear that this was meant to be an intimate experience for people who just love art; no frills, no distractions, just a young man, his canvas and the hypnotic eyes of a child.
That’s the first thing my eye noticed at least. There were paintings of various sizes with boys and girls gazing at whomever came to step into their world. Size and scale was well thought out, the contours and shapes clean and attractive, but what stood out most were the blank faces staring back at me. The eyes were especially vibrant and hollow at the same time. Just then, a very nice Japanese woman came out to offer me tea and I took the cup with an “arigatou gozaimasu, yet still observing these dreamy children, my eyes fixed on theirs’. I began a barrage of questions about the artist and his work that, mixed with my accelerated English due to a growing excitement, overwhelmed her before a man stepped out to assist. He spoke my language fairly well and explained that the artist was from Kyoto. Ah, I thought, well no chance of rubbing elbows with a fellow creative today.
Then the iron door behind me creaked open.
“Ah, here he is now!”
I turned to see a young man with glasses and a big grin on his face, Mr. Ryuzo Satake. He shook my hand, thanking me for trying to find the gallery in the maze of streets down below. Immediately I felt a warm atmosphere about him, that he was genuinely happy to see someone enjoy his work, and we started to talk about some of what went into his paintings. Satake said that the faces were meant to capture the spirit of a child, what their heart and minds are like at that age. He was clear that his work represented not only children of Japan, but a kind of universal experience of “the child”.
I took a couple of minutes to let this sink in, once more observing the paintings. Children do tend to stare, a lot actually, but we don’t always understand why. Maybe that’s the problem, we’re too far removed from the dawn of life on the earth for anything to awe us anymore. At that time, everything is new, and rather than talk it all into normality as adults do, the child just opens their eyes, mouths as well sometimes, and soaks it all in. Satake’s method of painting these works also succeeded in guiding you by the hand into this simple mystery. There was no strong line work, but form, light and shadow were unanimously achieved by thin layers of elegant, crisscrossing brushwork. From far away, this gave each painting a dreamy, ethereal vibe, as if you had walked into the vision of a boy or girl and saw things as they do for a time.
I thanked the artist and my gracious hosts for a time well spent in the creative world. Mr. Satake’s exhibition is finished for now, but feel free to visit his website at the link below and keep your eyes and ears open for rumblings of new shows to come this year. I can’t promise, of course, that you will experience the same doorway to childhood that I did in his work, but if you feel compelled to try, then I think Satake’s vision will have succeeded.
o Ryuzo Satake artist website-
o Jiro Miura Gallery-