Nice to meet you. My name is Joeshin Kowase. I live in Yokohama, Japan. I’ve been painting as an artist for over 30 years. Most of my work is inspired by the Bible, which is quite rare for a Japanese artist like me. Here is the story of the Bible and myself.
First of all, I presented a series entitled “Madonna and Child“ from 2000 for ten years. Then I worked on the theme of “the Revelation of John” from 2011 to 2013. On March 11 2011, an unparalleled earthquake struck north-eastern Japan, and it was as if the prediction of the Apocalypse in Revelation had come true. From the beginning of 2014, I have been challenging myself to paint “Genesis”.
By the way, I would like to point out that I am not myself a Christian despite all the religious work that I have done. Some readers might wonder what makes a non-Christian Japanese artist carry on painting so many pictures of Biblical stories. As you may already know, only 1 % of the Japanese population is Christian, as compared to 30% in South Korea. Readers from other countries may wonder why the percentage in Japan is so low.
There are a couple of reasons for the rarity of the Christian religion in our country. First, Japan is an island surrounded by seas, and there were fewer chances of conflicts and confrontations between other ethnic groups. Society did not therefore need to bind itself together by a single ideology.
Secondly, thanks to the relatively mild climate and four distinct seasons, Japan has enjoyed a very rich variety of food in abundance. Naturally, the gratitude toward blessings from the land and sea grew among the indigenous people, and this lead to the spread of naturism, animism, and polytheism.
Thirdly, it seems to me that Japanese definition of religion is largely different from the one of monotheists. Although it may appear to lack integrity and consistency when you see Japanese people paying visits to Shintoist shrines and Buddhist temples as they feel, it is only natural for the Japanese who have an underlying belief that everything has a soul.
Back to my own story, I have been looking for inspiration in stories of the Bible simply because I love them. I also want people to get to know more about them. In addition to this, I used to be an icon artist in Greece, and a religious artist in Italy, in my past lives so to speak, which may have driven me strongly to religious painting in this life in Japan too.
The Bible is not only read by scholars, researchers, and Chrisitians. Anybody can enjoy reading the intriguing stories and the exquisitely beautiful expressions. Please try and look at it as stories instead of a religious text. You can experience the complex richness of the contents, words, and the deep lying truth that the one is all, and all is the one.
I would be delighted if you are inspired to have a look at the world of the Bible through my work. Additionally, I am looking forward to presenting a solo exhibition in Italy in the years to come.
I would like to end my story with the following quote from “the Gospel of John”:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God.” I would like to continue to produce paintings for the rest of my career from the Bible which is adorned with jewels of words and episodes.