Thursday, April 19, 2018


I am pleased to share my first bit of Japanese press.

 Kyoto Shinbun

Keihoku was the last stop of the installation tour.  The other three paintings of the (four)est art project were already in situ.  En route to this densely forested little town my friend, Okamoto-san got a phone call from Kawaguchi-san.  She is the founder of the so-called Kuroda Village Station and sort of my contact person for this location.  She said there was a journalist coming from Kyoto Shinbun who wanted to interview me about the project.  What?!  Wow.

Mitani-san had the look of a real newspaper man with his sport coat, notepad and pencil, someone from a different age of reporting.  We sat down in the 200-year-old converted farmhouse and drank tea.  He asked me questions and I stumbled through Japanese replies.  Okamoto-san translated when the communication gap was too great.

The interview was brief - just the facts - which was okay, as it was beginning to rain and I was anxious to get the painting in place, wherever that might be.   Mitani-san followed me to the edge of the forest in the drizzle.  Then I disappeared up the mountain with my painting under my arm.

(four)est: preview and installation

Preview: be-kyoto gallery

一 (one)

二 (two)

三 (three)

四 (four)

paintings in situ...

美山  |  Miyama

一 (one)

京北  |  Keihoku

二 (two)

久多  |  Kuta

三 (three)

亀岡  |  Kameoka

四 (four)

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Disappearing acts

There are little details in my daily life in Japan that make me smile.  Things that are uniquely Japanese.  Things that a Japanese person would never give a thought to, so utterly mundane.

One of these things is the way a cashier will count money when giving change for a transaction involving a large note.  They will bend the bills in one hand, fan them just slightly for you to see and count them with a snap.  I can only compare it to a Las Vegas poker dealer or maybe a magician's card trick.  I think the first time I saw it I half expected some bills to be missing when I put the money in my wallet.  It is efficient, stylish and even graceful.  This compared to the States where a cashier will simply pile the notes up in a stack and hand it to you, requiring you to confirm the correct change.  I have tried to replicate this Japanese money counting technique myself, the cool gesture, the smooth motion.  I couldn't do it.

The ultimate show for these money exchanges is a supermarket.  At a supermarket, after verbally noting the price of each item as they are scanned, the checker will tell you what money you have given her: "Ni-sen en to... hyaku go-ju en."  She will show you what you have given her in a mime-like manner.  The money is slipped into the cash register and the change comes back, which she will then count out for you not once, but twice.  She will look you in the eye, bow and say, "Arigato gozaimasu."  This transaction, this exchange is less than 30 seconds, but the charming formality of it leaves you feeling good, like your business is appreciated, like it was money well spent.

Recently my local supermarket , Matsumoto (マツモト) eliminated this part of the checker's job.  Automated cash registers were installed.  Now, instead of a friendly human being taking your money and giving you your change in a respectful manner an obnoxious and ugly machine does.  It literally asks you for your money in a cheap, tinny voice like an early prototype for a talking doll.  There is a grating digital tone, a sort of badly recorded bell reminding you to take your change and receipt.  There is a flashing blue light telling everyone in the store your transaction is in process.  It is loud, it is annoying, something like the din of a pachinko parlour.

Matsumoto is no Dean & Deluca in SoHo.  If not exactly enjoyable, it was at least convenient, functional and reasonably priced.  Now it is actually an unpleasant experience. Like everything, I suppose I could get used to it.  Or maybe I'll just find another market that still has a semblance of humanity.

Monday, March 12, 2018


an art collaboration with Nature by Robert Wallace

April 4, 2018 – April 4, 2022
Kyoto: Kuta | Keihoku | Kameoka | Miyama

Sunday, March 25, 2018 12:00 – 18:00
be-kyoto gallery

I have long been inspired and influenced by the unsolicited and involuntary art collaborations between Mother Nature and Man.  A concrete wall or corrugated steel siding stained by rain and wind and sun and time.  Without a brush or pigment or any artist tool whatsoever Nature creates incredible pictures from and upon the most mundane man-made objects.

I can’t say what first drew me to these “found paintings”.  Perhaps it was the absolute randomness of the design, the sort of wabi-sabi essence, completely free of intent.  Maybe it was the furtive and clever subversion of man’s vainglorious and stupid constructions.  Maybe it was a secret joy, the pleasure I got from discovering such pictures in my day-to-day travels that few others would notice or be interested in.

For years I have aspired to emulate these beautiful, natural artworks that have evolved over decades, sometimes centuries.  It is futile and consequently humbling.

So after some 25 years of painting I decided to collaborate directly with Nature.  I would paint some pictures and then pass them on to Her to do what She does without direction or influence from me.  The (four)est project was born.

I have painted four pictures.  They loosely represent the four seasons (winter, spring, summer and fall), the four points of the compass (north, south, east and west) and the four elements (fire, water, air and earth).  These are the forces that act upon and shape both the natural and manmade world.  These paintings will be left in the forests of Kuta, Keihoku, Kameoka and Miyama in northern Kyoto for four years.  Each season I will venture into the forest and document the changes.  In the spring of 2022 the pictures will be repatriated to civilization and an exhibition will be held.

My motivation for this project is in part a fervent belief that the most beautiful art made by the most talented artists is always somehow inferior to the creations of Nature.  The real beauty of the world is often just beyond our doorstep.



しかし、25年以上ものあいだ絵を描いて来た今、遂に今回のプロジェクトで自然界と直接にコラボレーションをする事を決めました。私がこのプロジェクトのために描いた4つの作品をそのまま自然界へ解き放ち、その後は自然界が私の作品を最終点へ導くというバトンタッチ形式のコラボレーションです。これが今回のプロジェクト (four)est



January 2018 (Kyoto)