[From July Issue 2012]
This artist makes Buddhist images out of discarded corrugated cardboard. HONBORI Yuji who lives in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, studied sculpture at Aichi Prefectural University of Arts and, after completing graduate school, has been constructing works made out of junk and construction waste. “The Great Hanshin Earthquake completely destroyed my house and when I saw the damage to the surrounding area, I was completely shocked. Since then I’ve felt some reluctance about using fresh timber as a raw material.”
Moving to a new location, he spent days searching for the right material, experimenting with soil, wood chips, and so forth. “On one occasion I made a sculpture of a likeness of a zushi (miniature shrine to display Buddhist images） with scrap wood taken from an old shrine. The shape of the left over wood unexpectedly resembled a Buddhist statue. This incident was the impetus for me to create my first work by dissolving a milk carton in water and pouring it into a plaster mold to make a Buddhist statue. After that, I finally hit on the idea of using discarded corrugated cardboard as a material,” says Honbori.
It takes about a month and a half to make a 160 centimeter Buddhist image. One characteristic of these works is that, from the side, you can see colored text printed onto the corrugated cardboard, which has been intentionally left that way. And from the front, through undulating spaces in the cardboard, you can see right through to the back. A circle has been created in the center of the Buddha; a void made from poured concrete. This resembles a tainaibutsu (a small Buddhist statue placed within a larger one), a devotional kind of statue that dates from the Heian period.
“It would make me happy if people want to see traditional Japanese Buddhist statues after viewing mine. I make statues based on my own mental image, but I have difficulty walking that fine line of creating a form that is just about recognizable. But that is also why the production process is enjoyable,” Honbori says.
In March this year, his works were exhibited at ART FAIR TOKYO for the second time. They were displayed in the same space along with joumon doki (straw rope-patterned ancient Japanese pottery) and ancient Buddhist statues. This juxtaposition attracted a great deal of attention. “I used the eleven-faced Kannon (Goddess of Mercy) of Shorinji Temple in Nara as the model for my work. Although these are modern art works made of corrugated cardboard, I realized that their charm could be seen in a new light if they were exhibited with art works from antiquity that were of national treasure quality,” Honbori says. In May, he also participated in the Hong Kong International Art Fair, the biggest Art Exhibition in Asia.
“When I see people putting their palms together in prayer in front of my work, I realize that because I’m making an image of Buddha, I can’t create half-hearted works. With a playful heart, I want to continue making pop art,” says Honbori, who continues to challenge audiences with his works.
Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko