A resident of Halfmoon Bay, BC since 2012, Hiroshi (Kojun) Shimazaki is a Professor Emeritus and self-taught landscape painter. Born in Tokyo and educated in political science, economics, and cultural geography in Japan and Canada, he taught at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada from 1976 to 2009. He has been a visiting professor/researcher at various academic institutions in Canada, Ecuador, Germany, India, Japan, Malaysia and Mexico.
Shimazaki’s love of watercolour painting developed in tandem with his academic interests. Landscape sketching, a traditional research tool employed in geographical enquiry and analysis, served him well as a convenient, economical, and effective means to record, explore, and communicate research observations. Over the years, he has honed his artistic skills and developed many of these sketches into watercolour paintings. A sampling of his paintings can be viewed at his online gallery: http://www.hiroshishimazaki.com and at Watercolour Journey, his in-house gallery, in Halfmoon Bay, BC.
1943 - 1967 - Born, educated (Political Science & Economics), and worked in Tokyo, Japan
1967 - 1975 - Graduate Studies in Geography at University of Western Ontario (MA) and Simon Fraser University (PhD), Canada
Assistant Professor (1976 - 1980), Associate Professor (1980 - 1987), Professor (1987 - 2009)
Faculty of Arts and Science/Faculty of Management, University of Lethbridge
Taught cultural geography and international management there and at other universities in Canada, Ecuador, Germany, Japan, Malaysia and Mexico. Conducted research on themes in cultural geography and international management related to economic, political, and religious institutional endeavours and their long-range implications in selected Pacific Rim countries.
1994 - Received Canadian Prime Minister's Award for Publishing
2003 - Received Distinguished Teaching Award, University of Lethbridge
2009 - Professor Emeritus, University of Lethbridge, Canada
1967 - Aspiring Landscape Painter. Exhibited watercolours in Canada, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, UK and USA
2001 - Member, Società delle Belle Arti Circolo degli Artisti di Firenze, Italy (est. 1843)
2006 - 2021 - Member, Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour (est. 1925)
About the Watercolours
Professor Hiroshi Shimazaki is one of a select few in the tradition, over the years, of using the art medium of sketching as an integral part of a world view of observation and analysis in geography. In North America Edwin Raisz and Arthur K. Lobeck, both cartographers, were masters at landform sketching. Another, Professor William Morris Davis of Harvard, a great physical geographer, supplemented his description of landforms with his drawings in sketch format. More recently, are myself and Professor Shimazaki.
But here, it is my belief a distinction must be made. The first three, Raisz, Lobeck and Davis, skilled as they assuredly were and legitimately so, were more draftsmen in the service of science than they were artists in the true sense of the word.
What then is the distinction? It is this. An artist senses and literally sees with his mind through his eyes. The artist develops what my father explained to me when I was a boy, "the painter's eye." Thus, in the mind's eye the significance of what is seen and sensed, encompassed by the totality of the artist's world view, becomes invariably the grist for innumerable compositions as complete visual statements in whatever is the medium of choice by the artist.
In the case of Professor Shimazaki I find that geography is more the occasion for, than the major significance of, his artistic work. In truth, it is what he has entitled it, a "Watercolour Journey." For each of his paintings is not just of a place but a complete visual statement of the atmospheric, water, land and human significance of that living place.
From conversations with my friend, Hiroshi, I have ample reason for knowing the truth of what I am saying. In the painting of the village of Uchisar in Cappadocia, for example, there is a delicacy and suggestiveness in the linearity of his drawing which affirms that he well understands a principle of art: One cannot capture the whole of reality but must find by the artistry of suggestion that wholeness by a quickness and subtlety of line. This, I believe, he discloses when describing his quandary after trying many times to capture on paper the illusive memory of his mind's eye, he submits his original field sketch for exhibition.
A second example comes to mind in the case of the painting of Fraser Island, Australia. Looking at it I was reminded of the principle of art that the parts of a picture must be subordinated to the whole. In this case it is achieved by what I have called 'occult balance.' What is left out balances what is elsewhere in eccentric focus. This, the artist writes in his commentary, is traditional Japanese yohaku, "Deliberate use of the element of emptiness evokes the illusion of weight." This, I submit, is the thought process of a true artist who also happens to be a geographer.
The two examples I have just cited are repeated in various ways throughout this splendid Watercolour Journey.
~Allen K. Philbrick (1914-2007) Artist (Geographer), Professor Emeritus, University of Western Ontario, Canada
Shimazaki: the Master of 'Perspective'
Flicking through any English language dictionary will show many meanings of the word: perspective. But there’s one meaning that fits to the T in the context of the exhibition being talked about—The technique of representing three-dimensional objects and depth relationships on a two-dimensional surface.
It is fully understood after a quintessential Hiroshi Shimazaki experience. The landscapes he conjures up for us seem to have more sense of dimensions than the human eyes gazing at them. In that, he is a master at ‘perspective’. Through water colour, what the man brings into life is nothing less than the surreal trapped in a canvas.
For those who came in late, Hiroshi Shimazaki describes himself as a geographer and an ‘aspiring’ landscape painter. Alexander Pope’s famous phrase ‘humility with a hook’ briefly flashes across the mind as Shimazaki’s paintings come to life in front of one’s eyes. ‘Aspiring’ is too little a word when it comes to Shimazaki’s brushstrokes.
The Nehru Centre auditorium is hosting Shimazaki’s latest exhibition. Titled ‘The Way We See It’, the exhibition showcases Shimazaki’s field sketches of diverse ‘Indias’ over a period of 30 years. And it is impossible not to feel a slight sense of shame as one takes in the myriad colours. Shame at not having seen more than half of the India this Japanese artist has immortalised in colour. Shimazaki’s each work comes with the inescapable melancholy of not being present in the subject which in this case happens to be the breathtaking landscapes this peninsula offers.
The exhibition offers an added feature. Commentary by art critics Anant Deshpande, Sameer Deshpande and Amrita Deshpande. However, Shimazaki’s work is for each individual to decipher and figure out what it means for him. For, it is a portrayal of the world as it is—and can anything be more subjective than that?
That landscapes are his first love is a fact that screams out ‘obvious’ right through the canvas. His rendition of an evening puja at Pushkar in Rajasthan is nothing less than a visual treat. Kolkata with its famished rickshaw pullers as the central theme is a rather gloomy take on the city, one of its truths nonetheless. Another one titled ‘Paving the way’ is striking in its interplay of colours. ‘Kota’ too becomes a city retold on Shimazaki’s canvas. “Diu Fort’ is another excellent work.
“For me, landscape painting offers access to revelations of natural process, evocations of history and potentialities of human action embodied in each place. It also offers an invitation to philosophical reflection and emotional release,” says Shimazaki. ‘The Way We See It’, in that sense, is a fascinating inquiry. Whether the questions are answered by these emotion-heavy landscapes is beside the point. What questions we ask, is what is of paramount importance.
Stepping out, Shimazaki has definitely persuaded yours truly of one thing. It’s time to pack the bags!
~ Kevin Pereira, Buzz Bureau, Mumbai, Review of Nehru Centre exhibition, India The Way We See It; Water Colours by Hiroshi Shimazaki, 2009