Following leads from relatives and family friends, photographer Shitamichi Motoyuki traced the whereabouts of all the portraits and landscapes that were left behind by his grandfather, who had been a ‘Sunday painter’, and set about photographing them in their current domestic environments.
The paintings, representing various people and plein-air sceneries once seen by the late grandfather, have now been documented in their fixed positions within these new interior settings, then reproduced as photographic prints, and are now on temporary display as part of another living space at Tokyo Wonder Site’s artist residency complex in Aoyama.
Screening the bathroom mirror, sitting on chairs or straddling unmade beds, the images are treated as new physical objects amongst the generic furniture – the homely spaces they depict standing in sharp contrast to the impersonal and distinctly un-lived-in rooms housing them.
As with his other bodies of work, the Sunday Painter project considers questions of memory and its relationship to images, and prompted the artist to conduct research while trekking all over the country.
For his first peripatetic series Bunkers (2001-2005), he travelled around on his motorbike documenting deteriorating WWII ruins in ordinary settings, some of which had become playgrounds and garages; in another he recorded neglected torii gates at ancient Shinto shrine remains from Japan’s former colonies that have been incorporated into the natural landscape, or in some cases used as public benches.
Roaming around mapping these near-forgotten spaces, he is making an inquiry into how memories are contained in landscapes and in what ways the act of photographing them, placing them within new images, changes their status.
Giving yet another layer of re-presentation, Michi’s Sunday Painter exhibition at Art Tower Mito – now recreated for the Tokyo Wonder Site open studio – is accompanied by a beautiful new self-published book, where the artist’s own sketches of his grandfather’s paintings appear on folded pages that can be cut open to reveal reproductions of the ‘original’ canvases behind them.