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36 Views of the BT Tower: A Sudden Gust of Wind

Though not as popular as 'The Great Wave' or 'Red Fuji', 'A Sudden Gust of Wind' usually comes third in popularity in the series 36 Views of Mt Fuji. The depiction of ordinary people caught in the strong winds seem to tally with our feelings currently in a chaotic world.

Hokusai sets his picture in early spring. The air is crisp, but not bitterly cold. We’re near Suruga Bay, on the south coast of Honshu; maybe you can taste the salt in the air. The year is 1830 or so. From the northwest, a strong wind is blowing. A serpentine passage cuts through an ordinary little marsh, on a highway that connects Kyoto to Edo (now Tokyo); Hokusai seems to have been fond of this S-shaped composition. The location is somewhere commonplace, and undistinguished, like the side of a motorway today. More than in the landscape, you see the wind’s strength in the travellers' bodies. The way the bodies are crumpled, gripping their hats.

Hokusai's print was later the inspiration for Canadian photographer Jeff Wall, 'A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai), 1993. Wall's photo is highly manipulated and crafted: a wonderful photo, but there is no Fuji or point of stability, just the outskirts of Vancouver in the background (but it is barely visible)

Jeff Wall, 'A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai), 1993, Tate Britain, London

My design is near Marylebone high street, in Paddington Street Gardens. The BT tower is visible between some buildings. The frantic movements in the foreground contrast with the stillness of the tower in the distance, which has always been a source of stability and constancy for me, much in the same way Fuji was for Hokusai.

Edward Luper 'A Sudden Gust', from the Series, 36 Views of the BT Tower, digital, 2021


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