The 26th International TAKIFUJI Art Award winner
NOGUCHI Shunsuke

The 26th International TAKIFUJI Art Award winner:NOGUCHI Shunsuke

The 26th International TAKIFUJI Art Award winner
NOGUCHI Shunsuke

TOP arrowInterviewarrow The 26th International TAKIFUJI Art Award winner:NOGUCHI Shunsuke


The landscape paintings by NOGUCHI Shunsuke seem to show the flow of light. He, the 26th (2005) recipient of the International TAKIFUJI Art Award, has consistently pursued “light” and evolved his techniques of expression. Currently, he continues to expand his own depth while also focusing on training the next generation.(Interviewer: UESUGI Keiko, Date of interview: August 2019, First appearance in 2020 at commemorative publication “The International Takifuji Art Awards 40 year’s Anniversary”)

Aspiration for the Way of Art

NOGUCHI Shunsuke
Mr. NOGUCHI Shunsuke at the group exhibition “PLANETS” held at the Mitsukoshi Nihombashi Department Store, August 2019.

——Were you good at drawing as a child?

I was not born and raised in an environment where I had any connection with art. My parents both worked and my elder brother and I were six years apart, so I naturally spent most of my time at home alone drawing. I remember being so absorbed in drawing that I could continue for hours if I had a piece of paper and a pencil.
As I grew up, my aspiration for painting did not diminish and I began to dream of becoming a painter. However, my parents were against it, saying that I would not be able to make a living in the arts, so I went on to a regular course of study in high school.

——Sapporo Kita High School, which you entered, is one of the high-level schools in Hokkaido, isn’t it?

Naturally, my high school placed great importance on entrance examinations, and my parents expected me to go on to Hokkaido University. In the summer of my freshman year, I somehow went to take a peek at the art club and joined straight away. ended up joining the club as it was. I was fascinated by the transparency of the oil paintings I saw for the first time.
Later, at Hokkaido High School Art Exhibition organized by the All Japan High School Cultural Federation, I felt the difference in level between myself and the others, and I was filled with frustration. I don’t regret losing in studies. At this time, I realized “Oh, I want to go into painting.”
I was determined to go on to art university and tried to persuade my parents. I started delivering newspapers to earn money for prep school tuition fees. I woke up early every morning to deliver newspapers, so my parents could feel my motivation and I was able to start preparing in earnest for art university from the summer of my second year of high school.
I had only planned to enter a public university which were as close to Hokkaido, so my only options at the time were either Tokyo or Kanazawa. The prep school classes I attended were compatible with the exam content of Kanazawa College of Art, so I decided to take the entrance exam there and was able to successfully pass the exam. There had never been a case of a member of my high school’s art club going on to an art university before, so I was unique even within the school.

——You still live in Kanazawa, where you moved to when you entered university.

Kanazawa is a wonderful environment for continuing creative activities. The citizens are understanding, interested, and supportive of art. Local artists are close to each other and art materials are readily available. Since the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen line, Kanazawa became closer to Tokyo, where I have been presenting my works.
When I entered university, contemporary art was in its infancy. Many art universities were taking the lead in this trend, but Kanazawa College of Art was relatively conservative in its approach. This was very fortunate for me, as I was still pursuing the ideal coloring with oil paints after entering the university.
After graduating from graduate school, I went to Nagoya to work as an art teacher at an integrated junior high and high school, but returned to Kanazawa after one year. Partly because I was a full-time teacher and did not have much time to spare, but also I realized that Kanazawa was the perfect place for creative work.

Award gave me the courage to step forward

——What made you decide to apply for the International TAKIFUJI Art Award?

It was at the recommendation of my advisor. I applied with no expectations at all. At that time, I wanted to see how my work would be evaluated outside the university, so I tried various competitions and open calls for entries. However, I was not selected at all. In the midst of the currents of contemporary art, I had lost all confidence in myself due to a series of unsuccessful attempts.
I was very surprised when I was unexpectedly informed that I had won the International TAKIFUJI Art Award. Receiving an award for the first time was a great encouragement to me. This award made me realize that “even a modest style of work can be properly appreciated” and gave me the courage to take the first step forward. If I had not won the award then, I would not be where I am today.

“prologue” 2005, submitted for the 26th International TAKIFUJI Art Award, selected for the 91th Kofukai Art Exhibition

——In your application essay, you state that the theme of your creative work is the expression of light.

I have never changed my mind. At the time, I was attracted to the light and shadows created by human figures and the unique light that drifted in ruins. I visited many ruins, including Gunkanjima Island*¹ in Nagasaki Prefecture, and painted compositions with women standing in the background. The light and colors are much darker and stronger than now.
Since then, I have gradually started to paint only landscapes, and the whiteness and transparency of my paintings have been increasing. However, I have always maintained the stance that I take the time to understand the subjects and paint it.
The International TAKIFUJI Art Award was the catalyst for this change in my style. I spent the 300,000 yen scholarship I received from the Award to go to Europe for the first time as a graduation trip from university. I bought a cheap ticket via Dubai and traveled from Morocco to Spain, France, and Italy. It was a backpacking trip with two juniors at university.
Everything I saw on my trip was a culture shock. Experiencing the intense light of Italy, I was convinced for the first time that Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio*² was able to create such works. I began to desire to see the different light in different countries and to express the expression of light that can only be seen in those places, and I began landscapes as my main subjects.
Since then, I have continued to find opportunities to travel throughout Europe. I still take the train as a backpacker and look at the scenery from the window. I get off the train at a place where the scenery touched my heart. And I follow the stream of light. Sometimes I explore a town, remember the location and revisit at sunrise or sunset.
The places that I felt “This is it!” were not tourist spots known for their spectacular scenery, but rather farming villages with rows of houses around small churches, or small roads running through cozy villages. The light changes the expression of an ordinary landscape from moment to moment, filling it with emotion. The desire to capture these fleeting glimmering moments that are born and then quickly fade away is the starting point of my creative process.

*1 An artificial island where an undersea coal mine once stood. The exterior of the island, with its rows of reinforced concrete housing complexes, resembles a warship. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.

*2 An Italian Baroque painter who is described as a “manipulator of light and darkness.”

intermission of the moment
“intermission of the moment” 2006, Kanazawa College of Art, graduation work

Express what you feel from the light

——Do you draw on the spot?

I bring a pen, sketchbook, and camera, but I only sketch roughly and take a few photos. I don’t spend a lot of time drawing, because while taking my eyes off the scenery, I miss the beautiful moments of light. I also use photographs as a reference, but if I take too many photographs, I am pulled into the colors and light that the image captures, and the colors I am looking for are destroyed.
The most effective way to do this is with notes. I stand there for hours until the sun goes down and write down what I feel from the light at that moment. I would capture the changes in the light and record them as bullet points, such as “the rays of light shining grainy,” or “the light coming through the clouds creating beautiful shadows.” Then, after returning to Japan, I would draw the landscape I had captured in my mind, referring to my notes.
I am not trying to reproduce the actual scenery realistically. I place importance on softly expressing something invisible that I sensed from the scene and the feelings that were born there, inhabited by abstraction like a blank space. I aim to create works that give the viewer a sense of extraordinary happiness.
Of course, people may pass by while observing at the site. However, I do not paint people. I think this is a result of the fact that landscapes are easier to depict in terms of light. Also, I basically do not talk with people I meet on the spot. This is because I concentrate my nerves on staring at the movement of the light. The locals who see me are sure to wonder, “Why does he stay here for so many hours?”

Mr. NOGUCHI explaining his work at the group exhibition venue

——Are you interested in land outside of Europe?

At the moment, I am trying to master Europe more. As I mentioned earlier, I had no time to paint at all while I was a teacher in Nagoya and returned to Kanazawa after only one year. After returning to Kanazawa, I had no work for a while, so I went to Austria. Unlike my graduation trip in March, I was captivated by the beauty of the city of Salzburg, which shone and sparkled in the fresh June breeze. This was a trip where I took the time to look at the paintings again and made many discoveries. The excitement I felt at that time still drives me to Europe today.
This summer, I spent two weeks touring from Frankfurt, Germany to Switzerland. After returning to Japan, I exhibited my works at the Mitsukoshi Nihombashi Department Store, Tokyo, which are also Swiss and Austrian landscapes. I am moved by the beauty of European buildings and the interweaving of old towns and nature. Perhaps it is because I am Japanese.
I may one day paint landscapes of my hometown Kanazawa or Hokkaido, such as snowy landscapes. Because as I pursue transparency, my paintings become whiter and whiter. When I paint on canvas, I no longer make drafts at all. I don’t even use a pencil for drafting on canvas anymore, because the pencil also disturb the colors.
I would also like to expand my activities to public art in the future. I believe my paintings can bring comfort and healing to a space. In fact, three of my paintings have already been displayed in hospitals in Ishikawa Prefecture.

Only if you continue to be yourself people will understand

——Do you ever feel lost or your feelings are blurred?

It is only in the last few years that I have been able to say, “This is my style.” Until then, I had always been lost.
Naturally, art also has a competitive aspect. For example, in a joint exhibition hall, the eye is drawn to works with flashy colors, and in judging competitions, the impact of the moment is important. A landscape painting with muted colors will not be appreciated unless the viewer takes the time to look at it carefully.
There was a time when I tried my best to paint “pictures that would be accepted,” thinking that my works would not be appreciated unless they were more conceptual as art, but the values of trying to win or stand out did not suit me. The more conscious I am of it, the further away from the style I am trying to achieve. There was a time when I tried my best to paint a “stand out picture,” thinking that it would not be appreciated unless it was more conceptual as an art form. However, the values of trying to beat others or stand out did not suit me in the first place. The more conscious I became of this, the further away I was from the style I was aiming for.
If I do not paint what I myself like, It doesn’t get through to the viewers. I have finally come to the point where I am willing to paint steadily and painstakingly, even if my work is not as good as others. I have always felt, and still do, frustrated by the thinking that my work is not inferior to other works. However, there are people who like this quiet world and purchase my works. This has encouraged me to keep going.

——You continue your creative activities based on Kofukai Art Association*³ and also put a lot of effort into nurturing young artists.

I am currently teaching art as a part-time instructor at a local public high school. Since it is a regular course, not all the students necessarily like art. However, I hope that they will develop an interest in drawing and expand their contact with art. As a result, I have students who tell me at the end of class that they had a great time, and several students are aiming for an art university.
Looking back, I also fell in love with painting when my parents were happy and my friends cheered when they saw my drawings. Because I felt that I could make someone happy with my paintings, and I began to enjoy painting. Often my students ask me how can become better at painting. I reply, “If you love painting, you will want to paint more and more, and the more you paint, the better you will get. It’s just like sports.” I am happy if my students can see from me that it is important to keep on liking something.

——Please give a message to the students who are going to apply for the International TAKIFUJI Art Award.

I am sure that you will have many problems and will face many obstacles. However, you must stick to your commitment. I hope that you will not be swayed by those around you to destroy or throw away your own style, and please cherish the one thing that you cannot give up. Furthermore, I hope that the International TAKIFUJI Award will continue to be an award that supports such students.

*3 A Japanese art organization. It consists of two divisions, painting and crafts.

Summer breeze
“Summer breeze” 2013, winner of the Seed Prize at the 3rd Realism Prize Exhibition
NOGUCHI Shunsuke

NOGUCHI Shunsuke

Born in 1982 in Hokkaido. He entered Kanazawa College of Art in 2001, received the 26th International TAKIFUJI Art Award in 2005. After graduated from Kanazawa College of Art in 2006, received his MFA from the same university in 2008. Selected for the 91th Kofukai Art Exhibition for the first time in 2005. the 92th Kofukai Art Exhibition Encouragement Award and was selected for the Nitten (The Japan Fine Arts Exhibition) for the first time in 2006, the Second Prize at the Contemporary Art Exhibition in 2008, 3rd Realism Award Exhibition Seed Award (Shinseido) in 2013. Recommended as a member of the 101th Kofukai Art Exhibition in 2015.
He has traveled all over Europe to paint. He holds solo and group exhibitions almost every year.

Back to top