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PEOPLEText: Ayumi Yakura

Center “Say, Darling or Altar” 2001, 3,500 x 4,000 x 2,200 mm, Wood・Acrylic paint・Graphite/Both ends “Say, Darling or Tree flowers” 2002, 1,000 x 1,000 x 2,300 mm, Wood・Iron・Oil-based paint・Graphite “Ten-ei Abe Retrospective” 2012, Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art

You have contributed in international exchange through art for a long time; especially surprising is that you held a Triennale in Sapporo during the 80’s.

It was a theory to apply for the public exhibition of Tokyo (after receiving a prize at the public exhibition of Hokkaido when I was young). Between Hokkaido and the main island, there is the Tsugaru Straits. I wanted to think differently and ask why Sapporo, Hokkaido couldn’t directly appeal to the overseas and so I discussed with friends.

At that time, art museums said that it takes thirty million yen to hold an international exhibition. It was 35 years ago when the first Sapporo Triennale in 1981 happened. There was no Internet. It was held three times but proved that a private organization can hold an international exhibition, through one book with collected letters and reference materials used for the exhibitions.

“1979 ART TODAY 1989 / SAPPORO TRIENNALE 1981・1984・1987” 1990, Edit “TODAY”

Looking back on the Triennale, please tell me about good things you got through a tough process.

I have friends all over the world, who I met at that time and the relationship is the base of my artistic activity overseas. For the exhibition of “Ten-ei Abe and Hokkaido-based artists in Harbin City 2016” (tentative title) to be held at the Heilongjiang Art Museum in Harbin City, China this October, besides my 100-150 pieces, ten Hokkaido-based artists in total are going to exhibit. If young artists take in what we did, a different way can be opened. For the future of Hokkaido art, I join in such activities with hope.

“Say, Darling or Moon, Shadow, Drift – Ten-ei Abe Exhibition” 2015, Abashiri Museum of Art

When you devoted yourself in art education in university, what kind of a teacher did you want to be?

Because through my experience I know that ruling expression too much makes art less attractive, I taught students that there are many ways to express. Isn’t it fun if you express yourself like a kid playing hard in the mud? Of course, there are some problems which cannot always be solved by that.

We said things like, “I’m a genius!” “I can do anything!” in a drinking party with friends in the old days. But, the heavenly (happy) feelings turn to feelings of hell if got into a slump. We all wanted to get a prize when we are young. So, just like being plunged into hell and asking “Why can’t I do that?” – artists just repeat that.

But, now I don’t have such things. I want to do what I like. I want to express what I like.

“Say, Darling or North, Heaven, Fly” 2012, 2,500 x 5,500 x2,600 mm, Wood, Pulp, Wood shavings, Vinyl acetate, Acrylic paint, “Ten-ei Abe Retrospective” 2012, Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art

Recently, you had “Ten-ei Abe’s exhibition Fertile Sculpture” at Sapporo Art Museum in 2003, “Ten-ei Abe Retrospective” at Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art in 2012, and also large-scale exhibitions at Otaru Municipal Museum of Art, Miyanomori International Museum of Art, and Abashiri Museum of Art. How do you think about whilst you are already an expert, you’re called a “handicraft boy” in its original title in Japanese?

I’m glad to be called that! A museum named it. Since I had nothing in childhood, I had to make every plaything by myself. I still live with those feelings.

Does a current handicraft boy (77 years old) have any future goals?

When we say “after that”, that indicates the future. Both Shimamaki town where I was evacuated and Asarigawa hot spring, Otaru city where I moved are located in Shiribeshi (along the Sea of Japan). In Japanese, Shiribeshi could be understood as “being ambitious for the future.”

My works only can be born when I open a new door. So, I’m interested in how many doors I can open with the heart of Shiribeshi. I’m personally excited about what kind of art I can create, because the door of my mind only can be opened by myself. Thank you.

MACHINAKA ART-X_edition vol.21
Ten-ei Abe Exhibition “A La Carte”

Date: July 2nd – September 16th, 2016
Place: Cross Hotel Sapporo
Address: North 2 West 2, Chuo-ku, Sapporo
Organized by Cross Hotel Sapporo
Curation: Clark Gallery + SHIFT
Supported by Machinaka Art

Ten-ei Abe and Hokkaido-based artists in Harbin City 2016
Participating artists: Ten-ei Abe, Yoshinori Arai, Hiroshi Kakizaki, Yasuhiro Kasami, Nanako Kashimi, Junko Sato, Masako Suenaga, Hiroshi Takeda, Akashi Taniguchi, Toru Hayashi
Date: October 3rd – November 5th, 2016
Place: Heilongjiang Art Museum
Address: 97 Diduan St, Daoli, Harbin, Heilongjiang
TEL: 0451-83152297

Text: Ayumi Yakura
Translation: Hanae Kawai

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