The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Culture > The Vitality of Fumihiko Ozaki: Innocent Eyes II


The Vitality of Fumihiko Ozaki: Innocent Eyes II

Tsukasa Machida
Research Associate of Aizu Museum

An exhibition entitled “The Vitality of Fumihiko Ozaki: Innocent Eyes II” will be held at the Aizu Museum. 24 of the 33 exhibited works are drawings of animals such as dogs and cats. Expressed through simple lines and bold colors, the animals make a vivid impression on viewers.

As referred to in the subtitle, this exhibition is a continuation of the “Innocent Eyes I” exhibition which was held in June 2008. The previous exhibition featured displays of works by four female artists. All four of the participating artists have continued their artistic work while living with disabilities. Similarly, Fumihiko Ozaki, the artist featured in the current event, also has a disability.

Figure 1: Scene of the exhibition “Mentally-Challenged Child Kiyoshi Yamashita”; held at Waseda University Library Central Hall (currently the Aizu Museum Hall), 1937

The 20th century French painter Jean Dubuffet is credited with being the first person to discover outstanding artistic works produced by individuals with mental disorders and by individuals with no formal artistic training. Dubuffet used the term “Art Brut (raw art)” when referring to such artists and works, and he praised the beauty of such art. As has been pointed out in the past, Dubuffet's high evaluation of such “raw art” was a reaction to overly-refined Western culture and academic art. In other words, his praise of raw art may have been based on more than pure feelings of admiration. In any case, it is certain that the power contained within raw art was a stimulus to the art world and art figures at that time.

Coincidentally, a few year after raw art was discovered in Europe, a similar movement began in Japan that recognized works created by artists who lived with disabilities. The name of Kiyoshi Yamashita can be raised as a representative of artists discovered during this movement. However, it is not widely known that the first authentic exhibition of Kiyoshi Yamashita was held within Waseda University. In Japan, the phrase “outsider art” was often used to refer to artists such as Yamashita and their works . The photograph shown on the right was frequently used in written works discussing the outsider art of Japan . The upper part of the pillar shown in the background of this photograph features unique decoration, and examination of the pillar shows that the location of the photograph was the Aizu Museum Hall (used as the Central Hall of the library at that time). Kiyoshi Yamashita was discovered by the psychologist Yukio Togawa, who served as an instructor of psychology at Waseda University during that time. When visiting Yawata Gakuen (a school for the mentally disabled) as part of a research survey, Togawa was struck by the talent of the children studying at the school. From 1937 to 1938, Togawa held several exhibitions at Waseda University to display the works of the children. From among these exhibitions, the photograph on the right is a record of the scene at the exhibition entitled ““Mentally-Challenged Child Kiyoshi Yamashita,” which was held at the Aizu Museum Hall. Even Professor Yaichi Aizu, the namesake of the Aizu Museum, was filled with admiration at the talent of the children whose works were displayed. Professor Aizu was introduced to the works of Kiyoshi Yamashita by his pupil Togawa and was deeply impressed. Together with Togawa, Ryuzaburo Shikiba and Wajiro Kon, Professor Aizu participated in the round-table discussion which was held as part of the exhibition. Professor Aizu also visited Yawata Gakuen through the guidance of Togawa. In memory of his visit, Professor Aizu wrote the characters for “benevolence” in calligraphy and presented the work to the school.

Figure 2: Scene of the exhibition hall for “The Vitality of Fumihiko Ozaki”

As a result of the exhibitions held at Waseda University, Kiyoshi Yamashita began to attract attention throughout Japan. Ryuzaburo Umehara, Hideo Kobayashi, Sotaro Yasui and other established artists and cultural figure of the period held discussion regarding the works of Kiyoshi Yamashita. This took place before the term “outsider art” was created.

In modern times, these kinds of artists and works have come to be known “outsider art.” As we view these works, we are faced with an endless array of questions. What is “inside art”? What is “outside art”? Who decides the border that divides inside art and outside art, and what standards are referred to when making that decision? Once the works in this exhibition are viewed as existing “outside” of one's self, then it is likely that the viewer will become unable to feel anything more from the works. This kind of viewing is equivalent to drawing a line between one's self and the works. It is a rejection of a direct relationship with the works. The phrase listed below is from the title of Jean Dubuffet's first exhibition that featured a collection of “raw art.”

“Raw art takes precedence over cultural art” (L'Art brut préféré aux arts culturels)

Figure 3: Fumihiko Ozaki “Cat”; 2009, pastel.

When encountering raw art (Art Brut), perhaps it is most important for us viewers to also be in a raw, natural state. Yukio Togawa made the following statement when reflecting upon the exhibitions held at Waseda University:

“Young students are always fascinated and thrilled by the works. At such times, I was troubled because students studying French and German literature cast aside preparation for the event out of their excitement. Everyone compared the works to those of Gogh and Henri Rousseau.”

In addition to the statement listed above, Togawa occasionally made other written records in regards to the reactions of students upon encountering the works. These written works conjure an image of Togawa smiling as he looks over students who are filled with surprise and excitement upon encountering new works. What can be seen when taking a step away from a border that may or may not exist and directly confronting these works with a raw, natural spirit? Transcending a period of several dozen years, the current exhibition is sure to provide today's Waseda students with an opportunity to encounter the same vivid impressions that were felt by students at the time of the original exhibitions.

Reference Link:

Aizu Museum

Fumihiko Ozaki: Abbreviated Biography

1978: Born in Tokyo
March 1997: Graduated from the Tokyo Machida School for the Disabled.
April 1997: Became a member of Craft Studio La Mano.
July 1st to 30th, 2009: Exhibition—“Fumihiko's Paintings and Animals” (held at Kanransya Theatre).
November 7th to 23rd, 2009: Participated in the “17th Exhibition of Sunlight, Wind and...Special Artists” (held at the Fukuyama Museum of Art).

The Vitality of Fumihiko Ozaki: Innocent Eyes II

May 6th (Thur.) to May 29th (Sat.), 2010
Waseda University, Aizu Museum, 1st Floor Exhibition Room
10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Closed Sundays, admission free.

  1. ⅰ English translation of Art Brut by Roger Cardinal. Roger Cardinal, Outsider Art, New York, 1972.
  2. ⅱ Takashi Mizutani “Destiny, Inspiration and Art: Kiyoshi Yamashita, Yuichi Numa and Others” (Bigaku Publishing, 2008); Edited by Yoshiko Hata, exhibition of the Borderless Art Museum NO-MA “The World of Outsider Art—Art Brut of the East and West” (Kinokuniya Company Ltd., 2008)
  3. ⅲ Jean Dubuffet, L'Art brut préféré aux arts culturels, Paris, 1949.
  4. ⅳ Yukio Togawa “Origin of Collection of Special Children's Works” shuncho Association, 1939 (“Collection of Special Children's Works” supplementary volume)

Tsukasa Machida
Research Associate of Aizu Museum

Born in 1981. In 2008, entered the Doctoral Program of the Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University. Assumed her present position in April 2010. Her area of expertise is art history (modern Western art).