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Husk, Kyoto; 2022; Secluded Spaces series (PANO-2022-12)


Stripped of anything useful, only the husk remains. The clearing where it lays hasn’t changed much over the years except for the cycle of seasons, like breaths that blend together in an ever-reciprocating stream of growth and decay. Imperceptibly, the snowy paint flakes away from the steel shell revealing ochre-coloured rust. Over years, it crumbles onto a backdrop of dried leaves.

On my first trip of the year to this spot, barren branches clacked in the wind. Soon after on my second passage, tiny leaves the colour of macha were pushing out from branches and fungus covered grass on the ground. I set my camera up to take the first panoramas and then I took my small cameras out while I waited for the rain. After a few hours it began to drizzle so I began to record each section of the next panorama. After getting the main images, I looked around for a more dramatic but risky composition. Risky, because until I assemble the panorama in the studio I won’t see the relationships and lines of the elements. I like to work visualizing the images in my mind as if I was using film even though the process of making panoramas is more suited to digital cameras.

I framed the car with two large decaying trees accentuating the animal path traversing the clearing. As the rain fell more heavily, clouds rolled into the gully and I started to retake the panorama from the start. The ground became soft and rain began to splash onto the lens, which meant things could shift from one image to the next. Back in the studio as I assembled the panorama, I struggled with areas where the camera moved or the fog changed suddenly. Despite the flaws, this final image of the day created elements that express something more emotional than simply a scene made flawed by a rusty interloper.

Assembling of "Husk" panorama.
Rust and Fallen Leaves, Kyoto; 2013 (PANO-2013-07)

Fallen Leaves & Rust

This is the same car photographed nine years earlier than Husk. This panorama was a departure from the “Metamorphosis” landscape panoramas that focused on Shiga prefecture, mainly exploring rural and urban themes. This panorama was part of a series of abandoned cars that I exhibited in Kyoto that developed into the Secluded Spaces series. People have asked me if I’ve been influenced by Osamu Kokufu’s car themes such as Engine in the Water and I can’t disagree because I documented most of his artwork in those times and we worked closely together, but it’s probably directly influenced from my childhood playing in old cars that were used for parts in the Czech Republic.

But to shift to landscapes that focused predominantly on these abandoned cars was after the the relentless image of seeing so many destroyed cars after the Tohoku Earthquake. Each burned out machine lay scattered as a proxy for a family’s life that had been uprooted so violently. Later in 2014, my friend the artist Kokufu died from an accident working with one of his cars in a museum, so these landscapes have a personal significance of loss for me. The idea of “latent spring” or early spring frames the loss of something that cannot return in a place of renewal and potential. Entropy takes these machines from smooth metal back to rust and returns it to the earth, where something new can grow if we’re patient enough to wait for it.