National

Keeping voices of Fukushima alive

by Keiji Hirano

Kyodo

A special exhibition at a gallery in a suburb outside of Tokyo is focusing on the suffering of people at the hands of man-made disasters.

Marking the third anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, the Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels is displaying some 30 paintings by Mitsuo Seino, who has been inspired by the tragedies in Minamata, Chernobyl and his homeland of Fukushima Prefecture.

The gallery in Higashimatsuyama, Saitama Prefecture, is named after Iri and Toshi Maruki, the husband-and-wife team known for their art depicting the horrors of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Seino, 67, said his abstract paintings present an image showing “human beings are decomposed” by mercury in Minamata and by radiation in Chernobyl, referring to pollution-triggered Minamata disease in Japan and the 1986 nuclear accident in the former Soviet Union.

Seino has also recently created a series of large-scale paintings, in which he used lead and aluminum to portray radioactive materials and bullets falling over people’s heads, called “Metal Rain.”

“People in the world have faced illegitimacy — they are hit by environmental pollutions and radiation while pursuing economic growth, and people, for example in the Middle East, are threatened by bullets,” he said. “I tried to depict such suffering in my ‘Metal Rain’ series.”

In his 2013 painting titled “Metal Rain 13-B Fukushima,” he depicts people standing in front of a nuclear reactor building with styrene foam.

It appears to be one of the buildings at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

“Styrene foam can be easily destroyed, just like human beings in the face of a nuclear disaster,” Seino said.

After three years, Japan is still working to contain one of the worst nuclear crises in history, facing leaks of highly radioactive water at the plant and other unresolved problems. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people remain displaced.

“We can’t foresee how the problems in Chernobyl as well as in Fukushima will develop in years to come,” Seino said.

On the exhibition, scheduled to run through March 15, gallery curator Yukinori Okamura said: “We have launched it as this society has gradually left the Fukushima disaster behind. We believe we need to keep alive the voices and lessons of Fukushima through the perspective of the artist born there.”

Seino said he feels a special connection in displaying his works at the gallery, which permanently shows the panels on the atomic bombings by the Maruki duo, who were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995.

“I feel I could have a certain relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Maruki through this exhibition,” he said.

In addition to other events related to the Fukushima disaster, the gallery is planning to have another special exhibition later this year to mark the 60th anniversary of the March 1, 1954, U.S. hydrogen bomb test on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, Okamura said.

It was that blast that sent radioactive fallout that hit the Fukuryu Maru No. 5, known as the Lucky Dragon. Six months later, the chief radio operator, Aikichi Kuboyama, died at the age of 40, triggering anti-nuclear protests in Japan.

For further information, call the gallery at 0493-22-3266. It is closed on Mondays.

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