Satoyama Storehouse Exhibition Wall Texts

Abandoned school house in Hachi where the exhibition of "Satoyama Storehouse" was housed for the 2006 Echigo Tsumari Triennial. Reiss' studio was in the music room.  The Triennial uses numerous abandoned schoolhouses, grain storehouses, rice fields and houses and museums to show over 200 artworks.




Canadian painter Vivian Reiss' project Satoyama Storehouse consists of a series of portraits of the people of the village of Hachi.  While traditional rice storehouses have fallen into disuse in modern times, in this project Reiss has created a new type of storehouse. Satoyama Storehouse seeks to become a living museum of the people of Hachi, reflecting on a very personal plane the lives, characters and experiences of the people of the village as individuals. These 17 portraits are individual works of art reflecting a deep and intimate understanding of the subjects, and are an embodiment of Reiss’ aesthetic expression: the intensity created by the interplay between form and color; her energetic palette; and the simultaneous appearance of movement and contemplative stillness.  When viewed together, they are a reflection of the history and culture of the community as a whole.

To complete the artworks Reiss lived in Hachi for 11 weeks, becoming part of the community, along with her husband and children.  The project is a heartfelt endeavor, through which Reiss became friends with the subjects and entered their psyche. Reiss traveled to Kimono factories to see her models at work; visited rice paddies, asparagus fields and vegetable gardens; and visited her subjects in their homes. During the painting of the portraits, Reiss spent many hours talking to her models through an interpreter, and in the course this communication came to know their life history, their thoughts, spirit and philosophy.  The understanding that Reiss gained through these experiences become an essential part of the portrait. Many of the models are portrayed in settings that are important to them, such as Harui in the front of her house with her dried mountain vegetables; Seki in her kitchen; and Tei in her garden.

Through the portraits, the community and the subjects were able to connect with each other and the artist and understand themselves. The lasting impact of the work is the uplifting of human spirit through the fundamental language of art - galvanizing people toward positivity, while revitalizing people’s spirit through artistic endeavor.


Satoyama Storehouse Market

On weekends during the Triennial, Hachi villagers, including subjects of the portraits, will sell their vegetables here.  This connects the paintings, the subjects, the land and the viewer together.  Please enjoy.

Presented with the Canadian Embassy, Prince Takemodo Gallery

In Conjunction with the Echigo Tsumari Trienniale, Reiss will be exhibiting her portraits of Canadians at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.  August 7-September 20, 2006

Reiss will also show Works on Paper at the Gallery Concept 21 in Tokyo August 4-15

Sponsorship Four Seasons Hotel, Tokyo



Living for three months in a rice-farming village in Japan, Toronto painter Vivian Reiss created an extraordinary body of artwork. She painted a series of intensely personal portraits of the inhabitants of the village, which express on a deep level the soul of the individuals and the culture of the village. The work was part of the Echigo Tsumari Triennial, the largest international art exhibition in Japan, visited by 300,000 people. This exhibition showcases her paintings from this period, including portraits; paintings of mountain flowers, snow monkeys & Japanese toys & antiques, which are contextualized with some of the objects themselves. Two stimulating lectures by Reiss and a concert accompany the exhibition.


When artist Vivian Reiss went to Japan, it unleashed an intense outpouring of passionate artwork, which fills this exhibition at the Japan Foundation. These paintings display a remarkable degree of freshness, a sense of seeing things anew, while at the same time have a deep maturity owing to her 35 year career. This parallels the effect that Japanese art had on the West when it first started filtering out into Europe at the end of the 18th century, providing an invigorating fresh perspective on aesthetics, which influenced artists such as Sargent and Matisse.

Much of the tradition of Western art that Reiss claims as inspirations for her art was heavily influenced by the tremors that the rediscovery of Japanese art sent through the art world of Europe, onto America and into the present day. Therefore, during her time in Japan, she felt as though she was in a sense rediscovering the roots of her art, leading her to experience a new sense of freedom, one that supercharged her already intense sense of joy and prolific artistic expression.

Exhibition Outline

Reiss spent three months in Japan in 2006 with her family, and this show tells the story of her time there, encompassing many different facets of Reiss’ artistic output created during her stay or influenced by her time in Japan.

Reiss was invited there to participate in the prestigious Echigo-Tsumari Triennial, the largest international art show in Japan. For the Triennial, she lived in a tiny rice farming village called Hachi and created a series of 18 portraits of the inhabitants which was installed in the village’s abandoned school house. Come the opening of the triennial, this tiny abandoned school house was visited by more that 300, 000 people.

She also had a solo show at the Canadian Embassy Gallery in Tokyo and the Gallery Concept 21 in the Omotesando area of Tokyo. This show covers the art work she created leading up to her work in Japan (The Kewpie Series); the work she created for the Triennale (Satoyama Storehouse); a series of paintings she did of Japanese snow monkeys who bathe in the onsens of the Yudanaka valley; work she exhibited and was commissioned to do in Tokyo; and a series of still lives she completed in Toronto based on Japanese antiques and toys she collected in Japan.