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 I was born in countryside and used to play in nature, climbing trees, hills,

swimming in the river, and so on. When I was 22 years old, I started painting

by self-taught. I wanted to paint nature which I had seen for long time.

 At first I used oil. But soon changed to watercolor because the atmosphere

of oil painting was very different from what I saw in nature, feelings of transiency

and infinity of the universe. After 23 years, when I was 45 years old, I began

Sumie, black and white painting using Japanese and Chinese traditional black

ink on paper. Because watercolor was not enough for me to express what I

saw in nature.

 When I painted by watercolor, I tried to express the feeling of transiency by

layering thin colors. But about infinity feeling, I could not catch it at that time.

When I got to know the limits of watercolor expression, I started Sumie. But it

was very different from watercolor. By trial and error, I found many unexpected

things; nature was just a symbol, using many wet-in-wet washes invited

natural phenomenon in painting, and the unpainted parts, like the mountain

covered with snow, cloud, and mist, showed me a great wisdom of how to live.

To express without painting implies for me to live without ego, let it be, let it go.

Then I found infinite silence and stillness in the black painted background where

all transient things come from and go back to. I realized the relation between

transiency and infinity.

 Since then to connect these silence and stillness is my primary thing to paint.

Now I do not want to put myself into my painting because I have known that I

am not the man who paint a picture but a witness to the manifesting art. I just

want my painting to be a clear mirror. As myself goes out from painting, so it

reflects your being clearly.

 Thank you.

Mountains. Place of silence. by Marina Medina, curator

 The encounter of the people with the mountains is an extraordinary

encounter because in many cultures and religions the belief has always been

that the gods live up there on their summits. Mountains are therefore in close

connection with religion and spirituality.

 According to Greek mythology, was believed that the god Zeus has been

born and raised on Mount Ida on the island of Crete. Later Zeus chose Mount

Olympus as the home of the Greek gods.

 In our culture, mountains play a crucial role in history because a number of

important events happened on the mountains as told in the holy writings of

the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).

 God Yahweh met Moses several times on Mount Sinai. There Moses

received the ten commitment, which regulate the relationship between God

and humans as well as the inter human relationship. Noah's Ark stranded on

Mount Ararat after 40 days and 40 nights of deluge. From there, a new

chapter in the history of mankind begins. Christians associate Mount Tabor

with the place of theTransfiguration of the Lord. Here Jesus appeared to his

disciples in divine form. According to the Koran, Mohammed received his

revelation on Mount Hira.

 According to the tradition of Eastern religious belief, mountains are also

seen as the seat of gods or spirits, or even revered as sacred. Mount Kailash

is a sacred mountain for followers of Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and

the Bon religion due to its distinctive symmetrical shape resembling a crystal.

Out of respect for its religious significance, the Kailash remained therefore

unclimbed. Every year, the Kailash attracts thousands of pilgrims who,

depending on their faith, circulate it in one direction or the other.

 Fujisan, Japan's highest and most beautiful mountain, has always been

considered sacred in Shinto. On its feet and slopes thousands of shrines have

been built to worship different deities.

 No artist conveys the representation of mountains as place of spirituality like

Koichi Yamashita. His works radiate silence and tranquillity and give the feeling

of being connected to the universe. Koichi Yamashita specializes in an ancient

tradition of painting, which is known in Japan as Sumi-e ("Sumi", means ink

and "e" means picture, painting). In Japan, ink painting is closely associated

with Zen Buddhism, where the essential is reduced to simplicity and plainness

and attention is paid to extreme perfection. Originally this painting technique

was used by Buddhist monks in China as well as in Japan, later with the

spread of Zen Buddhism in Japan it was intensively adopted in different Zen

schools. The reduction to the essential also reflects the Japanese spirit in art.

 Mastering the art of Sumi-e requires an extraordinary sensitivity and

attentiveness because every stroke of the brush is irrevocable. In every

picture of the artist Koichi Yamashita the spiritual structure of the mountain is

noticeable, the character of his being appears and lets the observer,

completely in the sense of Zen Buddhism, feel one with the universe.

 Koichi Yamashita is a great Sumi-e master who impressively depicts the

colossuses of nature as places of silence where the soul of Zen-Buddhism

can be recognized.

 May all visitors to this exhibition as well as the readers of this catalogue feel

the touch of the spirit of Zen-Buddhism and share it with joy.

( This sentence is from the catalogue of the exhibition "Mountains. Place of

silence" at Lexus Forum Darmstadt in Germany 2019)



Born in Gumma Prefecture Japan. Grown up in countryside and played in nature.


Read Colin Fletcher“The New Complete Waker”and yearned for wilderness.


Read H.D.Thoreau“Walden-or Life in the Woods”and recognized nature as

place to think. Started solo trekking.


Entered high school. Started solo mountaineering and reading books about Zen



Entered Shinshu University (department of science). Studied science history,

ecology, philosophy, and psychology. Climbed Japan Alps.


Started painting by self-taught.


Graduated from Shinshu University (ecology major).


Selected contests (awards received).


Started solo exhibitions.


Quitted steady job and traveled European countries and U.S.A for four months

to see historical masterpieces in museums. Started Zen practice.


Started Sumi-e (painting with black ink on paper) by self-taught.


Selected for art book“ Beautiful Japanese Landscapes by Watercolor”


Selected for art magazine.


Started solo exhibitions in Germany. Received certificate from Zen master.


Lectured at the headquarters of Japanese Zen Buddhism Oubaku-shu school

about the common ground and meaning of science, art, and religion.

What I learned

 I started painting by self-taught. At first, I saw art books, read technical books,

and then I applied for contests running by artistic parties.

 At contests, famous painters taught me what is painting, what is art, how you

must paint, how you must not paint. But I could not understand them and

struggled for years because their teachings were so different from what I wanted

to paint.

 When I was 33 years old, I quitted my steady job and went abroad to see world

historical masterpieces at major museums. It was my first travel abroad and went

around European countries and U.S.A for four months. I saw everything in those

museums from open to close, like no tomorrow. Then I realized that to follow

famous artists is important in Japan, the other side, originality is important in

other countries. Following is safe, but it is not my way.

 After that travel, I tried to seek my way of painting. I referred to Zen Buddhism,

and other things influenced by Zen Buddhism like martial arts and literatures.

 “Truth has no gate, there are thousands of ways to enter.”

 My new works were called no mainstream, no traditional, wrong manner, and

so on by Japanese teachers and famous artists. Because they were not similar

to others. But for me to follow to others was not important. I was so serious to

realize myself and the truth of this world through painting.

 Typical, conventional, and traditional are useful for beginners, but not for

originality. Talent, circumstance, fame, and wealth are very temporary. An old

mentor said ; catch the other!

 “I am always here wherever I go. I live in now, neither past nor future. It is the

best whatever happens.” These sentences have been my teacher to learn

myself, my painting.

Painting as way of living

 Painter Kagaku Murakami (1888-1939) wrote in his essay“To make artworks

is my prayer in the closed studio”; painting is not big deal, I do not care if I could

not paint, the most important thing is to recognize the truth of this universe.

 Samurai Tesshu Yamaoka (1836-1888) said ; to practice sword technic is to

clarify the truth, oneness of the universe.

 Haiku master Basho Matsuo (1644-1694) said ; the truth exists through poem,

literature, painting, and tee ceremony.

 Zen master Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769) said ; The power of Zen is marvelous,

if you used it properly, every intensive practice reads you to enlightenment.

 Zen master Dogen Kigen (1200-1253) said; to learn Buddhism is to learn

yourself, to learn yourself is to forget yourself, to forget yourself is to get unity

with the universe, to get unity with the universe is to be yourself the universe.

 I would like to replace“to learn Buddhism”with“painting”Then the

sentence is like this ; to learn painting is to learn yourself, to forget yourself, to

get unity with the universe, to be yourself the universe.

 Kyudo, Japanese archery master Kenzo Awa (1880-1939) said ; to hit

target hundred times is not a big deal, but to get unity with the universe

hundred times is sacred.

 However you paint pictures skillfully and beautifully, that is not very important

for the truth of yourself. The most important thing is to be yourself as the

universe, complete your painting brush by brush, complete yourself breath by

breath. Then you are always here wherever you go. You live in now, neither

past nor future. And you accept whatever happens as the best. Painting has

been way of living for me.

 Thank you.

by farnorthernforest | 2018-10-31 10:54 | ARTIST STATEMENT


by 山下康一