Toshio Shibata’s connections with Japanese artistic tradition are intriguing. He purposefully went against the grain of the traditional Japanese concept of landscape, yet his viewpoint is unmistakably Japanese. His work has a strong connection with the way classical Japanese architecture integrates itself within its environment. In this sense, Shibata’s mediations on the contemporary landscape have a surprising connection to classical Japanese tea pavilions - both are set carefully within the surrounding landscape, and each displays a refined sense of spatial proportion

Shibata’s work is never didactic; rather he allows the surprising interplay between elements to conjure up new ways of seeing. What Shibata does bring to these scenes is a deftly calibrated sense of composition and a subtle color sensibility. His early training as a painter can be seen in his thoughtful arrangement of the elements within each frame.

In Midori City, Gunma Prefecture, classical Japanese themes are literally at the fore as the modern bridge in the distance is seen through a screen of cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms are, of course, the flowers most loved by the Japanese, and their short bloom cycle is culturally enshrined as a symbol of the transience of life. Shibata composes the picture in a way that emphasizes that this scene, for all its beauty, is also a quotidian roadside moment.

If harmony is the interplay and balance between distinct elements, it could be said that Toshio Shibata has built his photographic practice around finding visual harmony in the places where the constructed and natural world meet, somewhere those before him hadn’t thought to look.


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