The work of Toyohiko Nishijima reflects the development of his own philosophy as well as the spiritual and formative pursuits of each stage of his life. “We ourselves keep on changing, and that shows that we are alive.” – These are Nishijima’s own words. Here, we introduce you to his works from past until present, grouping them according to different periods of his life.
We can find Toyohiko Nishijima’s beginnings as an artist in his self-portraits. After graduating from art college, he repeatedly questioned his existence and his purpose in life. He was working on self-portraits at this time. He spent two months traveling in India, and this gave him the opportunity to ponder these questions more deeply. He felt unhappy and began to have destructive thoughts. This continued for around six years, during which time he lost weight. In the end he weighed only 38 kilos. He felt that death was just around the corner, and he kept on drawing his self-portraits.
In the winter of 1996, his destructive thoughts came to an end. One night, he stayed awake without intending to in his garden at home all night. His eyes were closed but his mind remained full of questions. Then suddenly he felt the warmth of the morning sunlight on his fingertips. There was only a small amount of light, yet he felt such a tremendous warmth. Right then, he realized how vitally important warmth is for humans. This realization and feeling led to a sea change in his destructive moods. He began to focus on Nature and sentient life. From that time onwards, he has painted the natural cycle of life and death, a flower as a soul for example, expressing the energy of life in his art. He conversed and sympathized with Nature. In the works that he exhibited, he focused on aspects of his subjects that we cannot see with our naked eyes.
After eight years of being in touch with Nature in his art and seeking out the spiritual aspect of his subjects, he felt his work was losing its appeal. He intentionally stopped looking to express spirituality in his paintings and became more focused on form and structure. He chose subjects that were attractive to him, observed their form and design, and outlined the finer details of his subjects’ beauty. At times, he exaggerated this beauty. He pursued beauty in the creation of his new artworks.
In 2011, he took the opportunity to exhibit outside Japan for the first time (in Paris). Here he took a fresh look at Japanese artistic ideology, Japanese artistic expression and the materials he used in his work. From this moment onwards, he became more interested in making Japanese paper washi, which is used for Japanese painting. He visited several washi studios in Japan and learned about the materials used and the manufacturing process involved. He then started to make washi for his own artworks. During this process, he discovered a new way of making washi. He called this original washi art, ‘Ewashi’. It has different degrees of thickness in each individual sheet, with pictures and patterns expressed as if on overlaid pieces of paper. Although up until now Ewashi has been used as a material incorporated into his art, he is interested in challenging himself to find new uses and applications for it.