Tomohiro Muda (b. 1956) is perhaps best known for images inspired by sites of religious devotion and pilgrimage, in particular his work with the Sherpas of Nepal, where he spent many months high in the Himalayas preparing his first solo show in 1988. He went on to travel throughout the world capturing images of Japanese, Romanesque, and Byzantine art, as well as Buddhist sites in China, Borobudur, Angkor, and Ajanta. With “Spaces for Prayer, Forms of Prayer” as a theme, he brought his photography to global attention through exhibitions and publications.
For his 2016 New York debut show at Thomsen Gallery, Muda shifted his focus to the natural world with a selection of photographs of one of earth's most precious resources: Water. His atmospheric depictions of the seemingly omnipresent yet also fragile liquid reflect an individual aesthetic that conforms to international trends in fine-art photography while building on traditional Japanese sensitivity to mankind's environment. In common with several other contemporary Japanese artists working in different media, Muda’s aesthetic is inflected with a sense of reverent awe at the energy and destructive potential of natural forces in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan a decade ago.
Conceived as one of a series of five exhibitions devoted to the traditional Asian Five Elements of Chi (Earth), Sui (Water), Ka (Fire), Fuu (Wind), and Kuu (Sky), “Aspects of Water” featured 40 photographs that explore water in all its states, from the mirror-like surfaces of a lotus pond to dynamic compositions of spray and steam. Muda eschews the merely literal in pursuit of an approach to his subject that almost conveys a three-dimensional effect, expressing his bodily experience of water. As noted by leading art-historian and critic Yūji Yamashita, with this exhibition he seemed “ … to be aiming toward a grand summation" of all his previous practice.
1956 Born in Nara Prefecture.
1980 Graduated from Department of Education, Waseda University, Tokyo.
1982 Began a career as an independent photographer.
1988 Presented “The Land of Sherpa,” his first private exhibition, featuring photographs taken during a stay at a Sherpa village in the Himalayas.
Muda later traveled around the world capturing images of Japanese, Romanesque, and Byzantine art, as well as ancient centers of Buddhism including Yungang, Borobudur, Angkor, and Ajanta. With “Spaces for Prayer, Forms of Prayer” as a theme, he presented his photographs through exhibitions and publications. Muda’s many other fine-art photographic exhibitions, with a focus on light and presence, include “Rome: The Wall of Time,” “Face of Iron,” and “Portraits of Poli,” in which he depicted a medieval Italian mountain town.
1990 The Land of Sherpa, IPC
2000 Portraits of Poli, Single Cut
2002 El Claustro de Santo Domingo de Silos, Exile Gallery
2005 Yungang Grottoes, Impleo
Pilgrimage, Japanese Art, Impleo
2006 In Praise of Japanese Beauty: Japanese Aesthetics Through the Lens of Tomohiro Muda, Coherence
2007 Romanesque: Sacred Buildings in Light (Tankosha)
2010 Yungang Grottoes (Fuzambo International)
2012 Okugake (LLP Bookend)
Buddha's Words of Wisdom (PIE International)
2013 Icons of Time: Memories of the Tsunami that Struck Japan (Heibonsha)
2017 Romanesque: Those Lurking in Light and Darkness (Seikatsu no Tomo)
1988 “The Land of Sherpa” (Shinjuku Nikon Salon, Tokyo)
1993 “Portraits of Poli” (I.C.A.C. Westin Gallery, Tokyo)
1994 “Ritratti di Poli” (Palazzo Conti, Italy)
2002 “The Cloister of Santo Domingo de Silos” (Exile Gallery, Kyoto)
2004 “Spaces of Prayer, Forms of Prayer” (Impleo Gallery, Tokyo)
2005 “Yungang Grottoes” (Mayuyama, Tokyo)
“Pilgrimage: Japanese Beauty” (Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi, Tokyo)
“Rome: The Wall of Time” (Gallery Fukka, Impleo Gallery, Tokyo)
2006 “Tomohiro Muda: In Praise of Japanese Beauty” (Yufuku Gallery, Tokyo)
2007 “Face of Iron” (Gallery Fukka, Tokyo)
“The Art of the Romanesque” (National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo)
2008 “Romanesque: Lurk in the Shadows” (Gallery Fukka, Tokyo)
“Santiago–Kumano: Caminos de Peregrinación” (Tanabe Wakayama, Japan / Paris, France / Santiago, Spain / Mitsuo Aida Museum, Tokyo)
“In the Shadow” (Galerie Etienne de Causans, Paris)
2009 “Clair Obscur” (Mayuyama, Tokyo / Galerie Frédéric Moisan, Paris)
“À l'Ouest” (Gallery Uchiumi, Tokyo)
2010 “The Wall of Time” (Marunouchi Gallery, Tokyo)
2011 “Yungang Grottoes” (Mayuyama, Tokyo)
“The Way of St. James: Tomohiro Muda, An Eastern View” (Spanisches Generalkonsulat, Hannover, Germany / Instituto Cervantes, Hamburg, Germany
“Cistercians” (Nagano, Tokyo)
“Sacred Place, Prayer, Fantasy” (Koumimachi Kougen Museum of Art, Nagano, Japan)
2012 “Okugake” (Kinpusenji, Nara, Japan)
“The Land of Sherpa” (Gallery YYZ, Tokyo)
2013 “Les Murs du Temps” (Galerie Yoshii Paris)
2014 “Icons of Time: Memories of the Tsunami that Struck Japan” (The Shoto Museum of Art, Tokyo)
“As Pure as the Lotus: East Asian Ceramics and the Eyes of the Photographer Muda Tomohiro” (The Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka)
“Mizu No Bo” (Kashima Arts, Tokyo)
2015 “Borobudur” (Mayuyama, Tokyo)
“Zao Gongen and the Secret Treasures of Shugendo” (Mitsui Memorial Museum, Tokyo)
“Chi-Ku No Bo” (Kashima Arts, Tokyo)
“The Wall” (Gallery Cocon, Tokyo)
2016 “Icons of Time: Memories of the Tsunami that Struck Japan” (Japan Foundation Gallery, Sydney)
“The Power of Colors” (Musee Tomo, Tokyo)
“Ka-Ku No Bo” (Kashima Arts, Tokyo)
“Aspects of Water” (Erik Thomsen Gallery, New York)
2017 “The Way of St. James: Tomohiro Muda, An Eastern View” (Palau Pineda, Valencia, Spain / Casa de Cultura, Caudete, Spain / Centre Cívic Tomasa Cuevas, Barcelona / Auditorio Municipal, Ávila, Spain / Gothic House, Barcelos, Portugal / Capilla de San Esteban, Astorga, Spain)
“Tomohiro Muda: Romanesque” (Mayuyama, Tokyo)
“Tomohiro Muda, Gose: Fragments of the Universe” (Osaka and Nara, Japan)
“Icons of Time: Memories of the Tsunami that Struck Japan” (Fitzrovia Chapel, London)
“Waves of the Lotus” (Yehjinfa, Taipei)
“Kabe / Ishi, Kioku” (Genra Art, Kanazawa, Japan)
“Shards of Memory: Photographic Installation by Tomohiro Muda” (Chihanan, Shizuoka, Japan)
2018 “Kabe: Himitsunoarika” (Ikeda Museum of 20th Century Art, Shizuoka, Japan)
2019 “Minamo” (Luca Scandinavia, Tokyo)
“Voice of Stones” (Genra Art, Kanazawa, Japan)
2020 "Aspects of Water" (Thomsen Gallery, New York)