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Hiroshi Omae's solo exhibition

August 4, 2016

Painter seeks to convey hellish scenes of Hiroshima atomic bombing



"I had to find a way to paint the hellish scenes of that day..."

Hiroshi Omae's solo exhibition, "The Black World and the Eyes Shining White," opened at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theater in Toshima Ward. After witnessing the bombing of Hiroshima at the age of 8, the atomic bomb became the theme of the painter's early work. With a desire to once again express the horrors of nuclear weapons, he returned last year to painting scenes of Hiroshima.

On the day of the bombing, Omae was at his home only about two kilometers west of ground zero. Having seen the B-29 bomber fly overhead, he was hit by a flash and the bomb blast as he fled indoors.

Until his late 20s, the atomic bomb was the theme of his work. Omae then began to feel that "as a survivor, describing the events of that day became unpleasant." Plagued by unshakeable fatigue and other symptoms he attributed to radiation exposure, "I had a sinking feeling that death was not far away." Faced with this unpleasant reality, he changed the theme of his paintings.

At the age of 32, in an attempt to distract himself from his circumstances, Omae moved to France. While traveling back and forth between France and Japan, he began painting the tranquil countryside of the south of France. However, three years ago, after seeing works themed on the religious ideas of "hell" and "the end of days" at an art museum in Paris, the memories of that day in Hiroshima came flooding back.

"In a world where everything had been charred black, only the eyes of the survivors shone eerily white," he explained. "Even if I die, if I can leave evidence of that hell in my paintings, then I will have successfully conveyed the horror of the atomic bomb." From that day forward he began to develop the concept for his works.

The works that appear in the solo exhibition include scenes of groups of charred survivors, mothers carrying their children with desolate expressions, and other scenes burned into 79-year-old Omae's memory from that day for a total of 31 abstract pieces. The exhibition runs until Aug. 7 and is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free.


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