Shu Takahashi

Artist and professor of Kurashiki University of Science and The Arts. Born 1930 in Fukuyama-city, Hiroshima Prefecture. Awarded the Yasui Prize for his work "Tsuki no Michi" (The Moon's Pathway) in 1961. In 1963 was invited as a research fellow by the Italian government and moved to Italy. In 1987, awarded the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Awards for Art and in 1994 received the Purple Ribbon Medal. In 2003 Takahashi opened his atelier in Sami, Kurashiki where he has decided to live permanently.

The Beach of Sami at Tamashima, Kurashiki-city, as its name denotes, is small and yet a beautiful beach. (In fact, this beach had been the birthplace of sea bathing as a medical treatment in Japan. It is also known as a historic site and has been designated as one of "Japan's One Hundred Most Beautiful Beaches.") At the tip of this beach - a scenic spot facing the islands of Setouchi - is the atelier of an internationally known artist.

Ever since he moved to Italy in 1963, Shu Takahashi has continued his artistic activities in Rome and as an artist has received much international recognition. He was born in the city of Fukuyama in Hiroshima Prefecture and assumed office as the professor of Kurashiki University of Science and The Arts in 1995. In 2003 exactly 40 years after his migration to Italy, he returned to Setouchi where he established a home in Sami. At present, along with his creative activities, he puts all his effort into raising the next generation. His teachings at the university have no boundaries, imparting the very essence of art to people of all ages from one to the next. "After all, the culture of Kurashiki is still very provincial. I have been working on it hoping that it would eventually view matters with a wider perspective," says Professor Takahashi insinuating his impatience.

To counter the state of "over-concentrated culture" in Tokyo, he inaugurated the "Kurashiki Modern Art Biennale in West Japan." He did this in order to promote Kurashiki as a place of transmission for new art and in order to guide young artists. This was not for the whole of Japan, nor was it aimed at prefectures or at the provincial areas such as the Chugoku and Kyushu districts. This act of distinguishing West Japan (all areas west of the Kinki Region) from the others has the effect of undermining the current Tokyo-centered set of values. The first biennial exhibition did receive several entries with some encouraging results. However, Professor Takahashi thinks that the problems such as the city's budgetary restraints and its management are but a few of several issues that need to be solved in the near future.
As chairman of the steering committee, he had this to say:
"If, for example, we offered the latest grand prize winner to hold an exhibition at a museum, then upon accepting this challenge, what can be said of his competence as an artist? Had this been a selection based on such anticipations?" Professor Takahashi does not want the young to be satisfied with the provincial level of quality. Wherever (in Kurashiki, in Tokyo, or in Rome) he resides, he expects that artist pursue beauty in earnest.

Laying the Foundations for the New Movement.

here is a cultural inclination in the traditional city of Kurashiki. The Ohara Museum of Art is Japan's first private western art museum. Even today, its art collection is the centerpiece of Kurashiki tourism. Formerly the entrepreneur Magosaburo Ohara contributed to the promotion of this region and it was under his patronage that enabled Torajiro Kojima to go to Europe. It had been for Ohara's love of art and Kojima's curator-like sharp eye for outstanding art that produced Kurashiki's pride and cultural heritage ---the Ohara Museum of Art. However, it is undeniable that the existence of the museum in itself was self-satisfying for the art culture of Kurashiki. "I affirm that the Ohara Museum of Art is great, but I wonder to what extent the people of the district are able to understand and appreciate its value."

It is important to protect the museum but in that case patrons or supporters like Ohara and Kojima must increase in number to enhance the growth of culture. Professor Takahashi, who had been a resident of Italy for a long time, views Japan objectively and deplores that he cannot help but see a meager provincial culture.
"The cultural administration of Japan has been committing itself in putting up public buildings such as museums and cultural centers. So they had come to believe that these buildings begot culture. Today, such public buildings lie heavy on our hands and we are scraping the bottom of the budget barrel (which should have been applied for the art collection) in order to preserve them. In the inclination towards culture, Japan deserves to be rated a developing nation."
Before establishing the "Kurashiki Modern Art Biennale in West Japan," Professor Takahashi had organized the "National High School Modern Art Biennale Exhibition" which was sponsored by the Kurashiki University of Science and The Arts. This high school biennale began in 2001 and is approaching its 3rd session this year. "While teaching undergraduates, I felt that to change their artistic awareness at this level was too late. So I approached high school and found that the work of a high school student was by far better than that of a half-baked undergraduate's. Japan, I thought, wasn't forsaken yet!"

At present, Professor Takahashi holds a "Mother and Child Art Class--Atelier GAga" every Saturday at his own private atelier. This class is held to promote the love for art amongst small children and their mothers.
"I think that it's the educational system itself where Japan errs fundamentally. First, we have this so-called pressure-free education brought to light and now due to a decline in the academic performances the government acknowledges its fault. Is it safe to have such a wavering and irresponsible national policy?"
Professor Takahashi believes that the basis of art is to contemplate on life and to feel one's soul. That's how we should live like decent human beings. If as human beings we are able to mature, then neither the capital nor the province will matter. At 75 professor Takahashi is deceiving his age with his youthfulness and with that he is passionate to provide the right educational environment.