At age 95, Fumiko Hori created this mural for the Fukushima Airport

Fumiko Hori - Utopia, 2014, 4,5 x 5,5 meter, ceramic relief, installation view, International Lobby on 1st Floor of Terminal Building, Fukushima Airport, Japan
Fumiko Hori – Utopia, 2014, 4,5 x 5,5 meter, ceramic relief, installation view, International Lobby on 1st Floor of Terminal Building, Fukushima Airport, Japan

Introduction

Fumiko Hori supervised the installation of the mural herself, quite an impressive feat for a woman aged 95 at the time. The giant relief wall was based on Hori’s original painting at the CREARE Atami-Yugawara Studio.

Original Painting by Fumiko Hori
Original Painting by Fumiko Hori

The relief carving at the airport helps to create an illusion of depth on an otherwise shallow surface. The mural was also commissioned as a symbol of hope and reconstruction, paying homage to the people that have suffered or, worse, lost their loved ones to the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters that have ravaged the region for decades.

Production of Fumiko Hori's Utopia, 2014, 4,5 x 5,5 meter, ceramic relief
Production of Fumiko Hori’s Utopia, 2014, 4,5 x 5,5 meter, ceramic relief

After enduring these disasters, the prefecture saw it fit to create a comprehensive plan to revitalize the area to recreate a new region full of dreams, smiles, and hope for all residents.

Fumiko Hori creating the original painting for Utopia
Fumiko Hori creating the original painting for Utopia

The team at the CREARE Atami-Yugawara Studio worked hard to reproduce the original work, not only in terms of color but texture as well, trying to create a feeling that makes people “want to touch it”. They used clay that was later baked and glazed before being dried and painted.

Layout templates for Fumiko Hori's Utopia, 2014
Layout templates for Fumiko Hori’s Utopia, 2014

To ensure that the team got the colors and texture right, Ms. Hori and the studio staff worked tirelessly for more than seven months to replace the shapes and colors of the original painting with ceramic relief, adding the three-dimensional characteristics of sculpture and craftwork.

Production of Fumiko Hori's Utopia, 2014, 4,5 x 5,5 meter, ceramic relief
Production of Fumiko Hori’s Utopia, 2014, 4,5 x 5,5 meter, ceramic relief

The ceramic relief was installed on the lobby of the first floor of the passenger terminal, which gives everyone, including locals and arriving visitors, a chance to enjoy the warmth and brightness of the relief.

Fumiko Hori - Utopia (close up), 2014, 4,5 x 5,5 meter, ceramic relief, installation view, International Lobby on 1st Floor of Terminal Building, Fukushima Airport, Japan
Fumiko Hori – Utopia (close up), 2014, 4,5 x 5,5 meter, ceramic relief, installation view, International Lobby on 1st Floor of Terminal Building, Fukushima Airport, Japan

Fumiko Hori said the following1 about Utopia:

Birds and animals, grass and trees, fishes, insects, people, all creatures in this world are the ones whose lives have been given from the life planet “Earth”. On the primitive earth, creatures were equally fulfilling their lives. Since I cannot overlook the current human’s arrogance that forgetting that the earth is not just human being’s, killing things inconvenient to humans, and starting the monopoly of the earth, I drew this picture with dreaming the utopia when all the lives were equal.

Fumiko Hori during the unveiling ceremony
Fumiko Hori during the unveiling ceremony

About Fumiko Hori

Hori was raised in a scholarly family, which explains how she was able to attend the Women’s School of Fine Arts, currently known as the Joshibi University of Art and Design. While at the Women’s School, she learned Nihonga, the traditional Japanese style and technique that she maintained for most of her life.

Fumiko Hori - Blue Poppy in the Himalayas (2000), color on paper
Fumiko Hori – Blue Poppy in the Himalayas, 2000, color on paper, image courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, Hayama

By 1952, she was already an acclaimed painter, even managing to win the Uemura Shōen Award, which is reserved for outstanding female painters in the country. After her husband’s passing, Hori decided to leave Japan for the first time and travel the world.

Fumiko Hori - Seasons of flowing mountains, 1990, color on paper, Sato Museum
Fumiko Hori – Seasons of flowing mountains, 1990, color on paper, image courtesy of Sato Museum

Upon her travels to various corners of the globe, including the US, Egypt, Mexico, and several European countries, she returned home and settled in the Kanagawa countryside, where she created works inspired by her adventurous travels.

Hori Fumiko - Kirigaki (Frost), 1982, coloring paper book
Hori Fumiko – Kirigaki (Frost), 1982, coloring paper book, collection of the The Museum of Modern Art, Hayama

Her works were always inspired by nature. Flora and fauna were a central theme throughout her long and illustrious career. After suffering a life-threatening aneurysm in 2000, she began painting in another style. This time, she was inspired by the microorganisms she saw under the microscope. It was not until 2014 that her piece Utopia was installed at the Fukushima Airport.

Fumiko Hori – Utopia, 2014, 4,5 x 5,5 meter, ceramic relief, installation view, International Lobby on 1st Floor of Terminal Building, Fukushima Airport, Japan
Fumiko Hori – Utopia, 2014, 4,5 x 5,5 meter, ceramic relief, installation view, International Lobby on 1st Floor of Terminal Building, Fukushima Airport, Japan, photo: courtesy of Fukushima Airport International

Hori continued to paint late into her final days. She passed away quietly, aged 100, in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. Her works are exhibited worldwide, but most of them are held in Hakone at the Narukawa Art Museum, which has more than 100 of her artworks. The Museum of Modern Art in Hayama hosted a retrospective of her works2 between November 2017 and March 2018.

Fumiko Hori - The Last Hour of Glamour (2004), color on paper, Nirasaki Omura Art Museum
Fumiko Hori – The Last Hour of Glamour, 2004, color on paper, Nirasaki Omura Art Museum

 

All images: Courtesy of Japan Traffic Culture Association unless otherwise noted

Footnotes

  1. https://jptca.org/en/publicart500/
  2. https://www.tokyoartbeat.com/en/events/-/2017%2FD1DE

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