‘Horizon That Appears Out of The Sleepy Woods’ brings together work by four Japanese
artists: Yusuke Asai, Takanobu Kobayashi, Kyoko Murase and Syozo Taniguchi. Each artist
lives and works in and around Tokyo and has never exhibited in London before. Selected
by Yoshitomo Nara, the exhibition runs concurrent with Nara’s own show. So often
Japanese art is distilled through a Western lens and this provides an opportunity to
connect directly with the Japanese avant-garde. As a counterpoint to Nara, who is known
worldwide, the under exposure of these artists outside Japan is an important comment in
itself. Much like Nara’s approach to making art, these four artists reference Japanese and
international art and culture in their work. Their critical understanding of contemporary
issues in a global world brought these artists to Nara’s attention, and this underpins the
Yusuke Asai was born in 1981 in Tokyo, Japan. He is a self-taught painter whose work is
inspired by folklore. Without formal training Asai honed his distinctive style by drawing
from life in urban zoos. His work therefore conjures an imagined dream-like nature. In his
paintings, dense forests full of imaginary animals and people are set against lush patterns
that crawl across the surface of the work. The work is illustrative, and akin to the historic
wall paintings of Ancient Egypt and India. Asai is well known for his large-scale murals
that traverse the floor and walls, seen recently as part of his show entitled ‘Yamatane’ at
Rice University Art Gallery in Houston. For these he uses soil as his palette; a surprisingly
wide spectrum of rich browns that seem almost too vibrant to have come from the ground.
The artist has also used soil in some of the paintings shown here.
Takanobu Kobayashi was born in Nihonbashi, Tokyo in 1960. Kobayashi’s realism, which
spans an array of subjects, is so finely painted and cleanly executed that some objects
appear three-dimensional. “I want to depict existence. Everything has a characteristic
attribute and that’s where its meaning comes from. Once you take away the meaning, you
get down to the essence. My idea is to paint vessels, people, pillows or trees, all in the same
way as ‘things’”. Though his work has the feel of a still life, Kobayashi often paints from
memory. The phenomenon of ‘hikikomori’ - young adults escaping from the pressures of
modern society by retreating into their bedrooms - is well known. But fewer people know
of ‘sotokomori’, a similar phenomenon where people escape abroad. There, a gentler pace
of life and lack of social interaction that comes with linguistic and cultural barriers serves
the same function as bedroom walls. The precise focus of Kobayashi’s gaze and particular
choice of still life subjects can be understood in light of this.
Kyoko Murase was born in 1963 in Gifu, Japan. “It seems as if I am depicting a moment, but
the image includes multiple histories including times of doubt and uncertainty, which may
indeed be a kind of entry into the work. Even if you enter the work, however, you may find
that things are in flux, which can be simultaneously comforting and disturbing.” Her
ethereal paintings and drawings have long depicted girls. These dream-like figures, often
enjoying the sense of floating or flying are highly emotive. Her technique; the use of
feather light strokes of oil paint, soft colour pencil or collage with petals or magazines,
underlines the exploration of femininity that pervades her subject matter.
Syozo Taniguchi was born in 1990 in Ehime, Japan. This young artist works in illustration
and video, in a style that clearly takes it lead from Nara’s legacy. The tales of
companionship and adventure played out in his animations are a millennial investigation
of ideas about adolescence and identity that Nara also explores. Taniguchi’s work, like the
others in this exhibition, is seen in London for the first time.
Each of the artists shown here, though diverse in their approach, works in response to an
element of contemporary society: femininity, the environment, spirituality and
adolescence. In bringing these four artists together, Nara showcases the diversity and
relevance of under-represented Japanese contemporary art.
“I studied with Takanobu Kobayashi (born in 1960) and Kyoko Murase (born in 1963) at
university, though they were one year below me. While other students were experimenting
with different modes of expression, they had decided to stick to painting. After graduation
they continued making work and successfully established themselves in the world of
painting, having developed a strong style and very personal point of view.
Yusuke Asai (born in 1981) is more than twenty years younger than Murase and Kobayashi.
Instead of using paint, he collects mud from around the exhibition space and works directly
on the wall, erasing the mural after the exhibition. His paintings are very free and inspired
by a ‘primitive life force’. For this exhibition he has made two-dimensional paintings,
though he also works with installation.
Then there is Syozo Taniguchi. Born in 1990, he is almost 10 years younger than Asai, and
thus is still developing. He produces a vast quantity of paintings and drawings, which exude
a fresh sensitivity and remind us of something fundamental in an artist’s drive to make art.
For this exhibition Taniguchi will exhibit an animation that was produced as a promotional
video for two Japanese bands.” Yoshitomo Nara April 2016.
Gallery Two: ‘Yoshitomo Nara: New Works’, 28 April – 3 June 2016
Gallery hours are: Tuesday to Friday, 10am - 6pm and Saturday, 11am - 5pm
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