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Earth Play is a visual collaboration and conversation between Photographer Carine Thévenau and Artist Yoshio Honjo, as they examine the organic nature of play in Japan and the non-dualistic relationship between man and nature that is instilled.


The playgrounds of Shiga Prefecture have been photographed during the wet season, when mother nature is wet and green and moist, challenging the playgrounds with humidity, rain and heatwaves. The playgrounds do not hide beneath synthetic shade sails and are not mounted atop of rubber flooring, as seen in many playground designs globally. These Japanese playgrounds emerge from the fertile soil and exist analogously with the grass and trees that surround them. Idyllic images of the Japanese countryside are weaved throughout, bringing with them the nostalgia of childhood memory. The photographs are punctuated by small paintings by Japanese artist and tattooist Yoshio Honjo. Using sumi-e ink and shuihi-enogu (traditional Japanese pigment made from mud) Yoshio has painted traditional Japanese folk toys known as Kyodo Gangu. These small works are painted on traditional, handmade Japanese Kozo Paper. Kyodo Gangu are made by local craftspeople in Japan and were once given to children for play, but are now collected by adults, who possess a strong sense of sentimentalism towards the toys. These small toys are made by hand from clay, wood and paper. Each toy originates from particular areas within Japan. Kyodo Gangu and Yoshio’s paintings are made from organic Japanese materials and possess a highly tactile quality.

Similarly, the vintage playgrounds and Kyodo Gangu allow children to engage in a consistent, tactile relationship with the soil beneath their feet, dissolving the dual notion of man and nature as separate entities. To understand the earth and human beings as one living organism, we are more likely to protect the earth through conservation and actively engage in projects of rejuvenation.

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