SEIZAN Gallery is pleased to present “Fires on Another Shore,” a solo exhibition by Motohide Takami. Takami has exhibited both in Japan and abroad, and his artworks explore the human tendency to consume events that befall others as somehow unreal.

Takami was living in Yamagata prefecture when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck in the region. Although large earthquakes had happened elsewhere before, he felt unease at the way people suddenly began preaching the value of art in extraordinary times, as if they could only do so after going through disaster themselves, and further noticed the way issues surrounding the Fukushima nuclear power plant seemed forgotten as time passed. With his attention drawn to the fluid nature of human empathy, he began creating works that visualized the unique psychological landscape that lay behind such tendencies.

Whether it be the recent earthquake on Japan’s Noto Peninsula, international conflicts such as the war in Ukraine or the crisis in Israel and Palestine, or even the realm of art where Takami himself resides, the nature of people’s interest in “others” remains similar in structure, regardless of nation or circumstances. It could be said that this mentality, reminiscent of the Buddhist expression “a fire on the opposite shore,” is the core of Takami’s practice.

By creating dioramas depicting burning houses or cars and then rendering them on canvas as fake, “low-resolution” landscapes, he instills viewers with the complex feelings of an “onlooker” who is “watching catastrophe from a safe distance.”

Whose organic gaze is it that is cast upon these vividly colored, yet shocking images?

At the same time, the vague eeriness and discomfort that remains with viewers after observing Takami’s “fires on another shore” may also inspire us to look closer at our present and future.



Danielle Winger is an American artist exhibiting in Japan for the first time. Before her solo exhibition at SEIZAN Gallery in April, some of her artworks will be unveiled at the Art Fair Tokyo 2024.



The title of this exhibition, “Watching Fires from Across the Shore,” refers to the human tendency to stand by and observe, without helping, the catastrophes that befall others. The phrase carries the same meaning as “Fires on the Opposite Shore” and expresses the same sense of indifference.

I began exploring this theme in my artwork after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami that took place on March 11, 2011. Though there had been major earthquakes before that day, I remember well the feeling of mistrust I developed, sensing that I had only begun preaching the importance of art in extraordinary situations after experiencing disaster myself.
In addition, the issues associated with nuclear power plants, which were of great interest at the time due to their connection with the earthquake, also became a major motivating factor. In the immediate aftermath of the disasters, the effects of radiation leaks were seen as a threat to life and drew the attention of the world, but I soon felt the speed at which that attention can fade with time.

Recently too, after the January 2024 earthquake on the Noto Peninsula, there emerged many cases of people on social media who could only recognize the world as it exists within the confines of their own surroundings. Putting aside whether such comments were wrong or right, it was another powerful reminder of the limits of people’s concern.

From the perspective of universality, the world does not end with the stories of what we individuals have felt and experienced. Rather, I believe that we exist as part of a general common understanding. The French philosopher Henri Bergson said, “the eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend,” and I cannot help but feel that our ability to correctly perceive or show concern extends only within the framework of the world we envision. This too is another widespread issue common to mankind.

Though examples of concrete problems are innumerable, whether they be international issues such as the war in Ukraine or the conflict between Israel and Palestine, or issues that affect smaller communities such as companies or families, there seems to be a structural similarity to the way we care about others. The earlier example of observing fires from the safety of the opposite shore is one psychological manifestation of that mentality. Exploring that theme has become the core pillar of my practice.

At first glance, my paintings appear to be landscapes, but look closely and you will see that the motifs consist of model trees and dioramas. In other words, they are fictional landscapes that merely resemble reality. This paradox is an intentionally ironic provocation by myself, the artist. The artificial landscape enables the painting’s composition to force the viewer into a gaze that is structurally similar to watching a fire from the opposite shore (In other words, I question whether the onlooker’s “low resolution” gaze, with its lack of concern for the people involved, is any less deficient in the data it receives than if one were looking at an artificial scene, rather than something real). For the same reason, the houses and cars burning at the center of the frame do not resemble well composed geometric shapes so much as haphazard forms molded by hand.

It is difficult for people, myself included, to maintain an omni-directional interest towards events in spite of psychological distance. Rather than suggesting that indifference is good or bad, it is my belief that these psychological limitations are an inescapable reality for all humans. By expressing the indifference separating viewer and object in visual terms, I also hope to evoke the vague eeriness and discomfort embodied by such lack of human concern.


- Motohide Takami -

08/03/2024(fri) -  10/03/2024(sun)

11pm - 7pm, Friday, March 8, 2024
11pm - 7pm, Saturday, March 9, 2024
11pm - 5pm, Sunday, March 10, 2024

Tokyo International Forum, Hall E / Lobby Gallery, 3-5-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
SEIZAN Gallery Booth: N003