もう10年くらい前になるだろうか？尼崎の神田中通りの「日の出理容店」を訪ねたのは、当時で既に百歳過ぎたオーナーが隣のビルを案内して下さった。ビルはビルでも間口の狭い４階くらいの商店街に良くある矮小な建物だった。狭い階段を３階か４階まで百歳のお方のおぼつかない後について昇った。〜ここが白髪さんのアトリエだったよ、ここで生活もしていたよ〜っと言われ驚いた。あの 200 や 300 号大の作品をここで制作されたとは！恐らく左の写真はこのアトリエだと思うが、もう画面が一杯一杯だ。年代を繰ってみると 1955~1982 年、 31~58歳までの 27 年間、最も油の乗り切った時代で白髪一雄の代表作はここで生まれたのだ。しかも富士子さんとの共同アトリエだったのだ。富士子さんにガラスの破片の掃除をやかましく言われたのは尤もなことである。 '82 年以降は宮内町のお屋敷で制作されたが右の写真を見ても決して充分なスペースであったとは思えない、あのスケールの大きな作品から考えても。
It must have been about ten years ago when I visited Kazuo Shiraga’s studio. I made my way to the Hinode Barbershop on Kanda-Nakadori in Amagasaki, and the owner, who was already over a hundred years old, took me to the studio up the stairs alongside the shop. It was an unimpressive, undersized building with about four stories, of a type often found in old shopping streets. I followed the unsteady centenarian up the narrow stairs to the third or fourth floor, and was astounded when he announced: “This was Mr Shiraga’s studio. He didn’t just work here, he lived here, too.” It was amazing to think that he could have produced works as large as No.200 (259 cm on the longest side) and No.300 (291 cm on the longest side) canvases in such a small place. The photo on the left, with every bit of the space taken up by canvas, was probably taken here. By my calculations, he worked here for 27 years from 1955 to 1982, from age 31 to 58. That means that his best-known works, those from the prime of his career, were all created here. Moreover, he shared the studio with his wife, Fujiko. It’s hardly surprising that he was always telling her to make sure to clean up the shards of glass that she was using. And as you can see from the photo on the left, even after he moved to the house in Miyauchicho in 1982, he still did not really have enough space, considering the scale of his works.
Thinking about the scale, I remembered the studio where Sam Francis worked in Santa Monica. The sheer size of it was mind-boggling! It was like a gymnasium. Francis also placed his canvases on the floor, looking down on them as he worked. His canvases were large, measuring maybe 3 meters or even more, and there were several of them spread out. He must have worked on them in parallel. In the center of the room was a large elevating work platform, and there were rows of drum cans full of paint. The overall impression was one of an industrial operation, together with a lot of mops on sticks, like those they use for cleaning at a Japanese public bath.
That memory brought home to me once more the fact that although these two painters both worked on large canvases from above, they had each discovered different solutions to painting, Shiraga using a rope, and Francis using long-handled mops.
Traveling outside Japan, I often see works by Sam Francis at art museums, auction houses, and art fairs, celebrating him as a giant of contemporary art. I always come away with the feeling that Shiraga’s works are by no means inferior to those by Francis, and in fact, it is Shiraga who seems to be the master. That thought reminds me of how deeply I was impressed by the place where Kazuo Shiraga produced his works.