Japanese Sculpture in Wood and Iron by Toru Shimoji on display through February.
Sensei Toru Shimoji is a five time US and repeated international champion in Traditional Karate, trained by esteemed Hidetaka Nishiyama. Shaped by his Okinawan youth and the discipline of Japanese Calligraphy, Toru explores the expressive potentials of wood and iron.
"My works are abstract, interpretative and figurative, adhering to compositional form I learned in Japanese Calligraphy. My aim is to inspire an interaction between the sculpture and the viewer, who can freely interpret and explore its evocations."
Ever since I can remember, I loved art. I used to make up imaginative stories about the lives of the farmers portrayed in a small faded print my mother had hung in our house. It was Millet's The Gleaners. I remembered being captivated by this masterpiece, used to lie on the floor and stare at it for hours. Connection wasn't too hard since my mother's family were all farmers from Miyako Island, one of many in the Okinawan chain.
I was introduced to art early through the Japanese education system (K to 4). Even then, I gravitated towards sculpture, predictably making clay monsters and wooden robots. By the time our family immigrated to the U.S. in 1970, I was familiar with various mediums and their basic techniques.
In 1996, I settled in Atlanta, GA and opened a karate school. As a hobby, I made a few wooden sculptures, but in the summer of 2002 something finally exploded within me. It felt like a cosmic order-create or die! So I took a deep breath and jumped. I enrolled in the Welding Technology Program at Gwinnett Technical College and began making metal sculptures.
Seeds of inspirations are constantly germinating in my psyche. As one sprouts I like to sculpt it in my mind before making a few preliminary sketches or clay models. Sometime I skip this process altogether. Visualization is dynamic and often vague, leaving me in a mixed state of excitement and anxiety. The piece will finally materialize in the shop, after struggling with multitudes of adjustments in texture, composition and angles. It usually flows well, but the real challenge is trying to manage all the seeds at different stages, not to mention the limitation of space-time continuum.
I like my work to be abstract, interpretive and figurative, adhering to compositional form I learned in Japanese calligraphy, and influenced by past masters like Musashi (17th century Japanese swordsman/artist), Michelangelo, and Julio Gonzalez. A moment's inspiration might come from a variation in my student's karate movement or in my own examination of intricate detail in the skeletal remains of a coyote's skull, but my aim is to inspire an interaction between the sculpture and viewer, who can freely interpret and explore its evocations.
I believe in the muses. Mine are never subtle, they perpetually scream in my head.. I can always count on troubling fellowship from at least three, rarely fewer. My only solitude is in training and teaching karate, which keeps me in sanity.
As a sculptor, he is self-taught, concentrating mostly on wood and metal. He is most influenced by three masters, Michelangelo, Julio Gonzalez, and Miyamoto Musashi. He found his unique artistic "voice" when he finally figured out the link between self-expression and spatial composition.