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A Bird's Eye View of Sotozan -The Mountain of Fire Where Divine Dragons Dwel-

走湯山俯瞰図 -神龍の棲む火の山-

PVC sticker sheets, oil stain on wooden panel

9,840 × 2,200mm



9,840 × 2,200mm


Ryo Shimizu creates works mainly using textual characters. He has great interest in the form of textual characters and the magical elements of how textual characters blend into everyday life and how they affect us unconsciously. Since 2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shimizu has been continuously observing, researching, and photographing the formation of the topography, flora, and fauna of the Izu Peninsula (Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan)  and other areas. He works on projects and artworks with the theme of humans before the advent of text characters or the good and bad things brought about by the invention of text characters.

In Atsushi Nakajima's "Mojika," there is a passage expressing the mischief of the spirit of textual characters.
For example, calling a nameless flower or plant a "weed" will immediately cause people to see it as something to be exterminated. One could say that textual characters have the power to manipulate people and bring misfortune. However, taking a closer look at the plants and flowers growing in the mountains, one can see that they all have their own relationships, characteristics, and role in maintaining the ecosystem.
Shimizu hypothesizes that the act of "looking" at a landscape releases the captivity of the mischief of the spirit of textual characters, based on his daily hiking experience in the mountains of Izu, Hakone, and Yugawara. He seeks to explore the primal meaning and possibilities of seeing and reading the landscape (or perhaps textual characters) by drawing bird's eye views of the terrain he actually walks on.

Izusan was once called Sotozan. Due to its volcanic activity, its hot springs brought a fiery hell opposite to the blessings one would expect. As the name "Atami (Hot Sea)" implies, many suffered from the hot springs that gushed out around Sotozan.
Sotozan is said to have been a hot spring sacred site, where Hashiryu Gongen (Izu Gongen), a hot springs guardian deity who incarnates as a dragon, was worshipped. People prayed there for relief from the fiery hell caused by the scalding hot springs. Sotozan Engi, a basic historical document of Sotozan established in the late Heian to early Kamakura period, states that two dragons, one red and one white, mingle and slumber peacefully in harmony underground. The red dragon here refers to the high-temperature hot spring (fire god), while the white one means the water (water god). The phrase, "two dragons, one red and one white, mingle and slumber peacefully in harmony underground," means that the high-temperature hot springs and water mingle to obtain a hot spring with just the right hotness. Many believe the white dragon and red dragon of Sotozan (Higaneyama) may have been fire and water gods.

This work is the newest in a series of bird's eye view maps with textual characters arranged along the topography. Shimizu began working on this series after 2020, depicting the mountains and streets of Atami centered on Sotozan (Higaneyama/Izusan). Along the topography, Shimizu arranged texts on the fire deity at Izusan and Higaneyama, taken from Sotozan Engi and Shigeo Okakura's Shinryu no Sumu Hi-no-Yama (The Mountain of Fire Where Divine Dragons Dwell).
This work delivers Shimizu's wish for the earliest possible recovery and resolution from the mudslide disaster at Izusan in Atami City in 2021, along with the creation and transmission of the tale of the red and white dragons of Sotozan and the artist's attempt to find the background and meaning of this story.