• Greeting from Executive Committee

    Amabiki 2022 was held over the course of two months from Monday, 10th October to Sunday, 11th December, 2022. Sculptures by 33 participating artists were exhibited within the landscapes of the city of Sakuragawa (formerly the village of Yamato) in Ibaraki Prefecture.
    The last exhibition was held in the spring of 2019, roughly three and a half years ago. The COVID-19 pandemic that began in the winter of early 2020 in Japan as well as elsewhere resulted in restrictions on travel between prefectures as well as on in-person gatherings and meetings.
    As the Executive Committee of Amabiki Village and Sculpture meets once a month to produce the exhibition, the committee members struggled to determine how to hold discussions and prepare for the exhibition. However, young artists on the steering committee suggested web-based meetings, and discussions for the exhibition began with a mixed format of online and in-person meetings.
    On several occasions, artists from outside the prefecture were unable to use the Yamato Central Community Center in Sakuragawa, where meetings were held. As time passed, the question of whether the exhibition could take place under such circumstances remained uncertain. However, the decision was made to proceed with meetings while keeping an eye on the situation. After several preparatory meetings, the exhibition was set for 2022.
    Looking back, this marks the 12th time the exhibition has been held since the first one in 1996. The exhibition has continued for 27 years, during which the relationship between the city of Sakuragawa and the exhibition has gradually changed. The most significant changes are that the exhibition has been jointly hosted with the city since 2015, and that residents have taken a greater interest in the exhibition. Local residents have been seen viewing the works repeatedly while on walks. And an elementary school boy and his grandmother toured the works by bicycle, checking the route map as they went. These are surely the sorts of scenes we had hoped for. I feel that art is gradually becoming a part of our everyday lives, and I have realized the importance of continuing the exhibition. The fact that the exhibition has grown as it has is thanks to the understanding and cooperation of the residents as well as support from the city.
    As artists, we are passionate about sculpture, so through the exhibition of Amabiki Village and Sculpture, we hope to continue creating wonderful exhibitions that will contribute to the culture of Sakuragawa.
    Last but not least, I would like to offer my thanks for the cooperation from the landowners, volunteers, community residents, and the ward heads of the Motogi1, Nishikata, Ozone, Higashi-iida, and Abeta districts where the exhibition was held.

    The AMABIKI exhibition Executive Committee
    Executive Committee Chairman
    OTSUKI Takayuki

  • Greeting from Mayor

    Sakuragawa City is located about 70-80 km from Tokyo in the midwestern part of Ibaraki Prefecture. Surrounded on three sides by mountains, the area boasts five hundred and fifty thousand flowering wild cherry trees during spring that there is a saying “Yoshino in the west, and Sakuragawa in the east” (referring to Yoshino, an area in Western Japan renowned for cherry blossoms since more than a thousand years ago). The area is also blessed with a natural environment rich in greenery. The river Sakuragawa, which gives the city its name, flows north-south through the city center.
    Centered on the city’s former Yamato district, which is particular rich in nature, the AMABIKI exhibition has been held since 1996, with 2019 marking the 11th exhibition. One of few such outdoor exhibitions in Japan, AMABIKI owes its continuation of over twenty years to several factors. Among these is the organization of the executive committee by all participating artists, and the independent nature of the event. Also indispensable are the understanding and support of an extremely large number of people, including not only the landowners who support the exhibition and readily provide space to exhibit the art works but also the local residents who warmly greet the artists and many visitors. I would like to express my deep appreciation to all of these supporters.
    This exhibition lasted around two months, from April 1 through June 9. Highly individualistic pieces from thirty-eight artists were displayed against a background of rice paddies in the districts of Abeta, Haneda, Aoki, and Takamori.
    The scenery of satoyama (border areas between mountain foothills and arable flat land near villages) in this season rapidly changes in various beautiful ways. The changes start with the blossoming of the cherry trees. The mountains then begin to turn a brilliant golden color, and the rice paddies fill with beautifully shining water. When the rice is planted, the surrounding scenery completely changes, growing a deeper and deeper green each day. Finally, the rainy season arrives.
    Along with the natural environment of the satoyama, the expressions of the works of art standing amid this scenery undergo change after change. While this may be difficult to see for people visiting from far away, one of the exquisite aspects of the exhibition is the pleasure of seeing how the works of art change. If you have the opportunity, we hope you will view the pieces over time as the beautiful satoyama rice paddy scenery undergoes transitions.
    This exhibition draws numerous people each time it is held. I heard that this time too, there were visitors from not only Sakuragawa City and Ibaraki Prefecture but also from around Japan and overseas. The exhibition is often covered by TV, newspapers, and other media, which is greatly appreciated by Sakuragawa City.
    Although the dates of the next exhibition have not been decided, I hope that it will be held in near the future and will continue to support it to the best of my ability. In conclusion, I hope for the continued growth and prosperity of the AMABIKI exhibition and everyone involved.

    The Mayor of Sakuragawa City
    OTUKA Hideki

  • A Conversation with Nature

    The first time I visited AMABIKI was in 2008, when I was a Fine Arts student at the Tsukuba University School of Art and Design. The place is located in Sakuragawa City, in Ibaraki Prefecture. That day was a beautiful late-autumn day, with hot summer weather. The clouds were flying by as though Constable had painted the sky, and the landscape was filled with various greens, bringing to mind lush grass, trees, and forests.
    It felt like a new experience. Artworks are supposed to be exhibited in museums, or inside; or they could be public art, like sculpture. But to exhibit them short-term—just a couple of months or less—outside, somewhere like a rice field or another natural space, after which they have to be removed or destroyed—why would somebody do that? Why waste such energy on an artwork or project with such a short life-span?
    What is the purpose of exhibiting an art work where it can be exposed the elements, transformed by the weather? Importantly, such artwork forms somewhat of a contrast to the character of mainstream culture, for example it cannot be easily transported and cannot be integrated by art galleries or museums. It is also difficult for such work to attract the interest of collectors. When the exhibition ends, you need to bring the artwork back to the studio, or have it stored somewhere.
    That day, as we were walking around the beautiful natural surroundings, one by one the artworks revealed themselves in many places—amid urban areas, in the rural environment, in a forest, connecting and recreating harmony with nature, in situ. It was entirely different to going to a museum: I could feel the wind; I could hear the birds and insects around me; I could smell the greenery. And I had so many different views of the art works, each of them with a different story to tell.
    In that way, I started to understand the point of environmental or land art, and nature. Of course, the natural environment had always been a part of artistic representation, like landscape painting. But by the end of 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, Land Art fostered a more intimate relationship to the nature and a break with the rule of “framing” a work. The art work became an experience, without a single view-point or focus. Such art works have a multitude of views or perspectives, which are often difficult to capture in a single snapshot for example. You have to be there, inside or outside, to feel and understand the presentation of the work.
    I have now been a member of Amabiki Village and Sculpture since 2018.
    After almost three years with the Covid-19 pandemic spreading all over the world, this year we were extremely hopeful and started in earnest to plan another iteration of this exhibition. Planning such an exhibition requires a lot of work. Participating artists gather monthly to discuss the details of the exhibition. However, these meetings are more than just deciding the exhibition details. Each members’ work is not simply a matter of creating, it also entails getting permission to use a site, planning the route of the exhibition, as well as designing the catalogue and promotional flyer, and installing signage. And of course, we cannot forget about the financial side too. To belong to an art group, sharing opinions, and doubts, is always important for one’s individual development as an artist too. For me it has been so meaningful to share these conversations with other AMABIKI members.
    However, there are so many questions when you start creating your artwork. Looking for the right spot for the artworks, or planning its creation and the site, and actually realizing and adapting that plan to a specific space. Under these pressures, all participating artists have a limited time to finish their works. This also gives AMABIKI a somewhat different character, more like a big family, working together—but the artworks have their own soul and personality. The process of creation always takes a piece of the self that is integrated into the artwork. The representations of the artworks have countless faces. Some of them become part of the landscape, floating amid nature; others show a completely unrelated picture with the materials used and the colors, yet these too become part of the scene.
    The artwork connects with the surrounding lights and shadows, which are playing on them, giving them so many delicate views in the scene. Visitors must follow a route, a journey, to see all the art works.
    Ultimately, the viewers will always express their own thoughts and bring something home with them, which may share a little spark of hope in the turmoil of a world in pandemic.

    Participating artist
    ZELENAK Sandor