Peruse the incredible fine art imagery of Vin Kitayama's "Micro x Universe," as set to beautiful music by Atelier Amacha. A co-production of Vin Kitayama and Zeta Image.
Born in 1949 in Mishima, in Japan’s Shizuoka Prefecture, Vin Kitayama is currently the Director of the Vinsanchi Art Museum Azumino in Nagano, Japan. Throughout his career, he has created works of art in collaboration with his wife, Sanae.
Kitayama studied contemporary art under Jiro Takamatsu, one of Japan’s most influential artists in the 1960’s and 70’s. (Takamatsu was a co-founder of the legendary art collective Hi Red Center, as well as a key figure in the development of Japan’s Mono-ha art movement.) He went on to pursue research in the design and creation of glass art under noted masters Tsuneo Yoshimizu and Takeshi Kimura.
Kitayama also became skilled in silkscreen printing while working in Kanagawa’s Okabe Silkscreen Studio, where he helped produce limited editions for such internationally renowned artists as Nam June Paik, John Cage, Tadanori Yokoo and Arata Isozaki. Kitayama was responsible for all aspects of silkscreen printing, from plate making to final prints.
His formal education includes Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from Meisei University, and a Senior Research Fellowship at Gakushuin University.
Kitayama’s gallery exhibitions began with the Tokyo Biennale in 1978, and the “Japan in Asia” exhibition held in Paris that year, and have continued ever since, including a prize-winning entry at the Nikon Small World Competition in 2016, and a solo exhibition at the Ricoh Imaging Square in 2018. He has received four awards including the Machiko Kusahara Prize from the NEC Multimedia Art Competition during 1996 to 2000, as well as the Yoichiro Kawaguchi Award at the waSABI Grand Prix in 2002.
His publications include articles in the MIT Press Journal, Leonardo, as well as in textbooks published by Seishinsha, Gakken and Japan Education Library Center.
Coffee, wine, Japanese soy sauce. Things one sees and consumes every day, perhaps. Most of the images in this book are photographs of a single crystallized drop of one of these items, as examined through a microscope. These images are neither computer graphics nor photo composites, but rather extreme close-ups of natural ingredients such as beans or fruit, each with their own beauty invisible to our naked eyes, but inherent in the mysterious micro-universe.
I was born in 1949, in Mishima City, a town located in the foothills of Mount Fuji, the tallest mountain in the center of Japan. Mishima City was called the “Capital City of Water” back in those days, due to the pristine melting waters flowing off Mount Fuji. My parents started a used book store there.
We were poor, but we lived amidst the riches of scientific dictionaries and ukiyo-e art books. I spent time copying woodblock prints by Hokusai and Sharaku, and enjoyed looking at images of nature and the universe in our science books. With a small microscope, I began examining the environment surrounding me, and got very excited at what I saw.
When I was in my twenties, I first encountered the silkscreen printing process. It was around the time when Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe images received a lot of attention in New York. I noted that traditional Japanese kimono textiles had been created for many years prior, using a similar process based on Yuzen dye techniques.
One person who further developed and advanced the silkscreen photolithographic technique in Japan was Tokuzo Okabe (1932 – 2006). Mr. Okabe founded Okabe Hanga Kobo (Okabe Silkscreen Studio), and produced works for such internationally recognized artists as Yayoi Kusama and Nam June Paik. He trained the printmaker Ryoichi Ishida, who went on to produce silkscreen prints for Andy Warhol.
In 1974, I became an apprentice to Mr. Okabe, where I was mainly involved with creating prints for such artists as Nam June Paik, John Cage and Tadanori Yokoo, as well as the architect Arata Isozaki. In this way, I learned about printing processes as well as cutting edge artwork, in a very hands-on manner. I was also employed as an assistant to Mr. Ishida.
After I mastered the silkscreen photolithographic technique, I began my own “Micro Landscape” portfolio based on the micrographic imagery I had been creating, and entered it into the Krakow International Print Biennale. From my twenties to my thirties, I used this silkscreen process to express my concept of “Micro x Universe.”
It is more than 50 years since I first began pursuing the natural beauty one finds under a microscope. Microscopes are not uncommon these days, being used throughout the world in medical and biological sciences, as well as in industrial applications and education. One sees many microphotographs, but most of them are not necessarily
I now focus my attention on everyday items such as coffee, wine, and soy sauce, as seen under the microscope. I find mysterious, exotic and artistic beauty in this imagery. The universe, mankind, and the microcosm all exist under the same natural laws. It is no wonder that what one finds in the microscope may remind us of stars, mountains, lakes, flowers, butterflies and fireflies.
Tokyo is one of the leading cities in today’s art world, along with New York, Paris, London, and Milan. My most recent exhibition of “Micro x Universe” opened in 2018, in the middle of the Ginza. People visiting from around the world were able to peer into my microscope, to discover for themselves the exquisite beauty within a drop of wine.
Many of them exclaimed, “Is this really a drop of wine? It looks like a photo of the cosmos.” “I’ve never seen this before; it’s incredible,” was a common response. Words of surprise and astonishment abounded, such as “this is very different from what I expected from a microscopic photograph,” and “It’s like a new form of modern art – a world of mystifying beauty.”
Twenty-nine photos from the “Micro x Universe” series were exhibited at this show, and are the initial photos in this publication.
Currently, I live in Azumino City in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. It is a beautiful area in Japan’s Northern Alps, with clear water and air like in my hometown of Mishima City. When I look up at the night sky here, I notice that the Milky Way looks very much like the universe I see with my microscope. Tonight, I expect to peer through my microscope again, to look within this ineffable natural beauty.
Azumino City, 2018