Toru Ukai graduated from the University of Tokyo, the faculty of literature, Japanese literature studies in 1985. In 1998 Toru was awarded with the encouragement prize in 7th “New Cosmos of Photography”. From 2000 until 2006 Ukai’s work was shown within Japan on several occasions. From 2002-2006 a series of Toru’s photographs and essays were published in the magazine of NHK Publishing, Inc. In 2011 he had a solo-exhibition in Shanghai and as of 2013 his work has been exhibited regularly in Europe: in Poland, Ireland, Belgium, France and the Netherlands.
According to Ukai his main interest lies in the ‘hidden and invisible structure in our modern society. The structure is working everywhere we live. Originally it’s born out of the whole desire of us, though it could often suppress and depress ourselves. I call the structure “Invisible Machinery”. Sometimes it’s embodied in the social systems, the law and the architecture. Sometimes it appears in our own behaviour, gestures and figures. So “Invisible Machinery” is in the outside and even in the inside of us. It’s invisible but the signs are everywhere among us. And I think a photograph could capture the invisible structure so well.’
The project Ukai is working on at the moment concerns Shan Shui, “meaning the traditional Chinese painting portraying the natural landscape. But most of the landscape was originated from the painters’ imagination. Shan Shui was the amalgam of nature and humanity. In other words, it was formed on the very interface between existence and imagery. This project also deals with the interface between civilisation and nature, or the interference with each other. Sometimes a picture shows a harmonious balance of them and sometimes the opposite. Half of the pictures have been taken in Kyoto. The ancient capital is surrounded by mountains and the rivers flow through the center of the city. In there, nature in itself is nature with humans. We couldn’t talk about the long history of Kyoto without referring to nature. Besides, this old and big city also has the different interfaces in it, that is, between culture and nature, between the present and the past, between innovation and tradition… In the sense, I try to show you another Shan Shui, which represents various dimensions bordering on and interfering with one another.”