Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fukushima 50

Fukushima Hero I, oil monoprint on paper, 42 x 30 cm

Continuing my series on Fukushima Daiichi power plant nuclear disaster, i wanted to dwell on the brave anonymous souls who ventured down into the dark tunnels awash with radioactive water.

Fukushima 50 is the name the media gave to a group of employees of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Station who remained on-site after 750 other workers were evacuated following a serious fire at the plant's unit 4 on 15 March 2011. Since then, over 1,000 other workers have re-joined them, working in shifts of 50 men due to the extremely hazardous radiation present. These include firemen, power-line electricians, soldiers, engineers, young and old. The Japanese Prime minister has said these men are prepared to die. At least 20 have already been injured, some with radiation burns.

Fukushima Hero II, oil monoprint on paper, 42 x 30 cm

I had the sense of them being x-ray ghosts ambiguously emerging from or being swallowed by the darkness all around - hazmat forms vaguely discernible through radioactive steam and the acrid smoke of burning generators and burnout out reactor pumps.

I am moved by the words of one such worker :

“In the midst of the tsunami alarm  at 3am in the night when we couldn’t even see where we going, we carried on working to restore the reactors from where we were, right by the sea, with the realisation that this could be certain death. Fighting fatigue and empty stomachs, we dragged ourselves back to work. Everyone at the power plant is battling on, without running away.”

Fukushima Hero III, oil monoprint on paper, 42 x 30 cm

The reality may also have included business suit wearing engineers, draped in blue dust-coats, desperately twiddling knobs in brightly lit clinically clean control rooms and corridors. They too faced the radiation.

However, for me, these images are the doomed and dirty Fukushima Heroes , the Fukushima 50 of my imagination.

The three images were made using a monoprint process.



  1. going beyond and beyond......
    what a pleasure to follow your paintings !

  2. I'm much moved by your comment, Caio. I admire the intelligence and passion of your painting so very much. You finding pleasure in my work is therefore much prized by me, friend.

  3. Very good work, Harry. I think the third one is fantastic.

  4. This series is haunting and raw and real, Harry, as close as I would want to get to what those brave souls are actually dealing with, and souls they are, like the damned wandering in one of Dante's circles. It says a lot about your imagination that you are able to capture the truth of their situation from so far away.

  5. Harry, you are FIERCE! These current works are moving us all back to the horror and the respect for those men who are battling this monster in the bowels of the failing plants. This is art that says, "Look and FEEL, dammit, don't just sit there and eat another chocolate bar!"

  6. You are definitely giving us the images that encapsulate the issue. Powerful art; powerful words.

  7. Beautiful work throughout. Did I find your blog through Olivia? In any event, how absolutely refreshing to find someone working through the alarming irony of what's unfolding in Japan. Who's paying tribute to the ultimate character example of our Japanese neighbors. Through your Fukushima 50 series, I'm reminded of the Atomic Veteran I met after his lecture in a school 30 years ago. ... Thanks.

  8. this serie is so stark and dramatic, you a a marte Harry, I admire you so much!
    Your works is full of emotions and deep meaning

  9. Harry,

    I have been following your past few posts and have not had the words to express. Sure, I could give the obligatory "great" or "nice" but this most recent series of yours is powerful for so many reasons - the mastery of the work, but also the scope of the commentary. The tragedy affects us all, whether we are close or not. I can only sit here and thank you for your honesty. You are a good man!

    All the best,

  10. The non-apology apology of the Fukishima executives is infuriating. You may be right about he engineers sweating the radiation but it's usually the nameless and the faceless who are the real heroes. These guys may well be on a suicide mission just like the guys who worked at Chernobyl after that disaster.

    I have always been mystified at the use of such a toxic and dangerous technology just for boiling water. I have always thought of it as an excuse for manufacturing more fissionable material for weapons.

  11. Harry,
    You've really hit a home run with this series, Harry. This is the stuff which ends up in museums, as it should.
    Keep the hammer down and let your amazing imagination run wild.

  12. Thanks, Manel. Glad you liked it.

    Gabriella, you always find such vivid words that go to the heart of my work. Yes, Dante's inferno indeed.

    Rhonda, i love being thought of as fierce, haha. Grrrr. But i do feel intensely about some things, and i guess situations that bring out the best and the worst in people is often a trigger.

  13. Thanks Hallie.

    Hi Suzanne, welcome to my blog. You mentioning meeting the Atomic Veteran in turn puts me in mind of seeing an exhibition of travelling Hiroshima paintings in Hobart when i was a boy. Their stark simplicity and passion left a deep impression. Maybe that exhibition is one of the reasons why i'm reponding as i am now to Fukushima.

  14. Thank you Laura. Big events stir strong emotions in us all. And the story is not over yet.

    Thanks, Celeste.

  15. Hi Brian. Thanks for your generous comments, friend. I strive for emotional truth in my work, so it is encouraging to hear you use the word 'honesty'. And too right about it affecting us all, however distant we may be. The human drama alone touches our lives, let alone the energy, safety and economic implications.

  16. Davida, I guess in Japanese society, public apology carries some different connotations. But i'm more concerned about taking responsibility and making reparation than i am about social form. These guys strutted their stuff, gave the country their spin over the years. Now is the time to front up. But it's always been the way of things. It's often the nameless unknowns that pay the price for the ambition of the powerful and ruthless. And yes, i believe now that many of those workers will certainly die from the efforts.

  17. Hi Gary.

    Sometimes i wonder if i don't belong in a museum, haha. Life is pretty hectic at the moment now that the academic year is well underway (hence the delay in my responding to comments - sorry) and i have so many ideas buzzing my head. So yes, hammer down.

    Cheers, friend.

  18. Deep, moving, heartfelt. A beautiful serie Harry, although beautiful isn't the right word. You gave this tragedy that affects us all a face we can't miss. We can't look the other way but have to look to feel the depths of it. Caio is right, you're going beyond, not only in this serie but in all your paintings. That's what i love about your art, why i admire it. Your art touches, i always can feel it.