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WATCHING THE LIGHT

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The sun, electric light, or fire – they are too glaring to look straight at the source. But they show us various other expressions if we give them careful treatments. Look at the swinging spots of sunshine filtered by foliage, or the patches of jewel-like lights in changing colors through stained-glass windows of a cathedral.

Embraced by lights, a feeling of serene contentment grows inside us and the wonderful feeling fills us up. Everyone might have experienced such a feeling, but why do we feel like that?

Since 1993 when I made an unexpected encounter with the light, I have kept thinking of lights. I believe that when tiny pearls of light pour on us, some type of light that resides inside our body wakes up to breathe. I imagine we have a small element of light in each small cell that composes our body, and when we meet a beautiful harmony of lights, all the small lights begin to quiver in each cell in resonance with the external light. Synchronous trembling of subtle lights inside all the cells of our whole body could grow into a big, conceivable vibration to make us feel a wonderful sensation of fulfillment.

I imagine that the small particles of light inside our body are what our spirit is made of. And if our heart is a mirror that reflects the spirit, watching the light is looking at our spirit itself.

I cannot give up thinking like that.

LUMIÈRE 
LIGHTS BEFORE LUMIÈRE

Many more incidents lie behind my motivation for creating Lumière. I explore scenes and visions beneath my consciousness, trying to expose them to the light.

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In my atelier, May 1993

Looking up, I found myself unexpectedly caught in a swirl of light that was beyond description. Divine! I wondered if I was really alive. The beauty came magically from a pile of broken mirrors I had left by the window. A mirror reflects the shape of the source of light as it is. The shape of countless spots of light sprinkled all over the atelier was exactly the shape of the sun.

At the third gallery of Angkor Vat, June 2000

It was the beginning of the rainy season. I finally got to the third gallery, the top of Angkor Vat. The sky was wide open before me, and the Indochina plain was endlessly spread below me.

The wind over tropical forests dried the perspiration on my face and even made me feel cold. While I was strolling around the gallery, arrows of sunlight shot into the dusky place and I witnessed how the stone flowers in bas-relief shone, floated off the wall and danced in the air. Astonished, I tried to understand what happened. Thick, white cumulus clouds were floating in the clear, blue sky. The sun was swimming wild among the clouds, throwing off piercing or faint beams of light. The sunlight came into the gallery through sculptured columns. Passing over the grooves on the columns, the light was metamorphosed into strange rattlesnakes of quivering light. And when the shaking light touched images in bas-relief in the wall (they are remarkably low, especially these at Angkor Vat), still images looked as if they were actually in motion. Each wall of the first gallery downstairs is decorated with bas-relief depicting a highlight from the Hindu epics. On the opposite side are the same sculptured columns as those of the third gallery. I almost jumped with joy at discovering this fact. The concept of religious complex for prayer that the erstwhile ruler had elaborated reached me directly through the ages. Angkor Vat represents Mount Meru, a paradise of the gods. It’s a huge, delightful installation of a man-made structure for ”animation spectacles” realized in collaboration with great nature. The right slides along the round surface of sculptured columns like rosary beads. The light flows on, filling the transverse grooves on the bulge of the columns with delicate reflections. Pillars with the form like cutout plates can throw sharp shadows. The edge of the shadows must be so acute that they are perceived as solids in our eyes.

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An assurance I got at Shorin-In temple in Ohara, Kyoto, December 2004

A small statue of Buddha caught my eyes. It was about 70 cm tall, standing modestly beside a large figure of Amitabha, the temple’s main object of devotion. In the dusky sanctuary on a chilly winter day, the flame aureole of the statue gleamed pale, reflecting dim light drifting in the solemn space. The aureole seemed to be sculptured in bas-relief, coated with platinum leaf. The body of the small statue stood solid and stable, no matter how the light around it changed. The lower a bas-relief is made, the more detail of the light’s expression gathers on it. The memory of this day, four and a half years ago, when I encountered the light of wonder at Angkor Vat, came back to me.