Nagasaka and Hemingway
I met Yoshi in the summer of 2001. He was living in the center of Milan not too far from the Duomo in a two-bedroom apartment that was literally packed with his paintings.
An uncle of mine had 'discovered' him while vacationing on Lago Maggiore. He was so impressed with the work of this Japanese expatriate that he gave me his number and said that I should scout him out in Milan and find out if he would be interested in doing the poster for the Ernest Hemingway Society's bi-annual meeting in Stresa. He was convinced that Yoshi's minimalist portrayals of the landscape surrounding the lake and the own of Stresa would be perfect.
And indeed they were. They captured perfectly the romanticism and essential beauty of an area that my grandfather had once defined as one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
In one painting you could almost imagine Frederick Henry rowing silently across the waters towards Switzerland. In the twilight of a summer evening the mist was obscuring the mountain range in the distance beyond Isola Bella.
Many other paintings were of Milan. People sitting on the steps of the Duomo or passing through the Galleria not far from the hospital where shrapnel was removed from my grandfather's legs. Intimate views of a city that Yoshi knew well and that had been fundamental in Ernest's life.
After leaving his house I kept thinking how amazing it was to find this kind of talent hidden so carefully in a run-down building in the center of postindustrial Milan. The Milanese, it's true, have a habit of thinking of their city as the cultural capital of the country and yet here was a jewel in the midst that they'd virtually ignored. An ignorance, I was sure, that wouldn't last forever.