Toru Oba – About the Artist
The stone sculpture of Toru Oba now being offered at Brad Smith Gallery reflects a timeless master’s fusion of Eastern and Western influences. Stone is an old material with great longevity, a perfect medium for expressing a reverence for the past, for living in the present, and for envisioning the future with kindness and hope. Oba relates to stone with intensity and passion fueled by a sequence of professional involvements with its many forms, working up from an apprenticeship in the restoration of an ancient French village through the establishment of an architectural masonry practice in Virginia, to the present success of Oba’s powerful fine art sculptures. “I select stone and see it ninety percent finished before I start removing what is in the way. I feel character in the stone. I try to show that innate character in my sculptures. Each stone asks something different of me and I consider my task to be my privilege – to reveal what is exquisitely and uniquely present in that stone.”
Toru Oba’s creative relationship with stone originates in Yamagata Prefecture, a culturally rich part of Japan renowned for the natural and cultivated beauty of its mountains, valleys, and seacoast. His childhood there fostered development of an acute attunement to the forces in nature and the elements with which they interact. Stewards of the land and artists populate Oba’s childhood memories and form about a third of the aesthetic foundation on which Oba has built his philosophy and practice of sculpture. Inquisitive and expansive by nature, Oba completed his education in Tokyo, and then embarked on an epic journey of discovery and self-development which accounts for the other two thirds of his artistic formation.
Working at a variety of occupations along the way, Oba followed the Trans-Siberian Railway westward across Siberia and the former Soviet Union. He spent two years exploring and working his way through Eastern and Northern Europe until he found his purpose in LaRoque sur Ceze, an 11th century stone village in the south of France. In a three-year apprenticeship there, Oba helped repair and restore the ancient architecture while learning classical masonry and discovering a natural ease with the stone, and affinity that would become a passion.
Oba moved to the U.S. in 1972 and began designing and creating architectural elements in stone for clients in the Southeast. His gardens, fireplaces, walls, and outdoor living spaces established him as a master designer and mason. Honored in 1984 by the invitation to teach stone masonry at the Lama Foundation near Taos, New Mexico, Oba was naturally drawn to the geologic marvels of the Southwest. The natural stone formations in the deserts, mountains, and valleys of this corrugated region awoke Oba’s interest in stone as a fine-art medium. He has spent the past ten years focused on sculpture and has been gratified at the consistent demand for his always unique, always captivating pieces.
Viewers seem to feel energies emanating from Oba’s sculptures, indefinable, aura-like pulses of tranquility surrounding each piece. Oba works with many kinds of stone, favoring Soapstone, Granite, Sandstone, Marble, and Serpentine. He enjoys the unique properties of Kynite, a stone with translucent luster and enormous strength. Kynite is the raw material for the tiles on the space shuttle. In Oba’s studio, it becomes the playground for this artist’s beautifully balanced employments of curved and flat planes; sharp angles and gentle contours; mirror-smooth, glossy areas here; rough-hewn matte textures there. His designs lead the eye over, around, and through complex topographies, three-dimensional exploratoria for the imagination, enveloping zones of serenity for the soul.
You can find more of Toru’s sculptures at www.toruoba.com.