Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Interview: Ryoko Minamitani

Conceptual Japanese artist living in Leeds

Ryoko Minamitani, a Japanese artist living in Leeds, is currently exhibiting her work at the Bowery in Headingley. Her installation, 'Being Present', is made up of bright and beautiful images of blue skies that cascade down the walls and reach out across the gallery's bare wood floor. Nestled in amongst the wave of blue sky are little boxes each with more images secreted inside. I met up with Ryoko recently to talk to her about her work and the ideas behind it.

After studying more conventional art practice in Nagoya and Tokyo Ryoko Minamitani studied 'photo therapy' under its inventor Masumi Ishihara, a photographer interested in the combination of psychology and photography and the effect of abstract photography on the viewer. Since 2008 she has also practiced painting meditation under Tatsuhiko Yokō, an 84 year old professional painter, Christian and Zen master living in Berlin who teaches meditation to empty the mind before beginning to create art.

Ryoko moved to the UK, Bristol to be exact, in 2008 with the desire to improve her English and introduce her art to an international audience. Having already exhibited her work several times in Tokyo she went on to exhibit more work in Bristol. 'Being Present' is her first exhibition in Leeds and her first installation having previously focused on painting, photography and conceptual work.

Through 'Being Present' Ryoko aims to show people that since the past exists only in memory and the future is made up of desires and worries only the present exists. The boxes within the exhibition represent these three states and her wish is that people live in the present.

The images that make up 'Being Present' were taken in various locations in both the UK and Japan using both conventional and pinhole cameras. Ryoko explained that the places have no significance, she takes photos intuitively, with whatever camera is available and whenever she experiences a 'high state of mind'. She explained that she chose images of the sky since the Japanese kanji for sky - 空 can also mean emptiness.

As a practitioner of Johrei, a form of alternative healing and mediation originating in Japan with roots in both Shintoism and Buddhism, Ryoko's work is clearly inspired by spiritual practice but she is keen that her work not be considered religious art. Though she used religious meditation to find the images and concepts included in 'Being Present' she believes that they are relevant to everyone, whatever their background. Ryoko believes that art reflects the artist's inner soul and 'if we do not have a healthy and true inner soul, we cannot create true art'.

'Being Present' is on show until 6th September at the Bowery in Leeds. Admission is free.

All images: Itsumo Japan ©


This exhibition transcends time and space. It transports one to a dimensionless space, where one can observe the mind clearly. It is perceived like a pond, where wonderful things come and drink. It is a place where you become the observer of life, where you live in the now!

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