2009 10
Paintings as mirrors In the long history of painting, portraiture and artists’ self-portraits have been sufficiently popular to establish two distinct genres. On the other hand, making its own progress in recent years is a type of art that depicts imaginary characters with whom anyone can identify.Hideaki Kawashima is one of the artists at the forefront of this trend. Kawashima often portrays women’s heads. Viewers are riveted by the amorous jet-black brow-less eyes of these women whose hair ruffles decoratively against a flat background. Without bodies and with hair trailing like wings, some of them might appear ghost-like. Others might look like saints who see through to the heart of things, radiating the celestial aura of religious paintings. It is fair to describe Kawashima’s works as paintings of eyes, relatively small features of the face but powerful communicators of delicate and diverse emotions. Viewers become emotionally swayed without even noticing, as they try to read the women’s expressions. In recent years Kawashima’s highly cartoonish renditions include brows and have become increasingly realistic, making one feel as if facing a live woman. Here, the ultimate style of Bijinga (pictures of beautiful women) is born, marked by both the sacred and the secular. Kawashima’s world can be considered as nesting inside the world of Atsushi Fukui. As opposed to Kawashima’s style which, by abstracting humans, developed icons as mirrors through which one finds oneself and others, Fukui starts from the opposite point of view, trying to complete his inner world. What he paints beyond the windows of ordinary rooms are daydream-like landscapes with planets and animals and dreamy forests where mushrooms grow. Lines and color planes freely weave magical scenes. Are they utopia for Fukui who is fond of psychedelic culture and a science-fiction world view? Led by mystical scenes portrayed in fragments, viewers indulge in role-playing games which transcend time and space. In the world of Fukui, where viewers relive the painter’s experiences, they encounter almost no one but a girl they see occasionally. The scenes are places where a sense of entrapment in a self-contained miniature garden exists simultaneously with a sense of infinite liberation. These places project the artist’s inner self which is integral to him as he refines his world of imagination through encounters with real people. And these places expand as if they undertake the artist’s inner self. Kawashima (b. 1969) and Fukui (b. 1966) began their artistic pursuit intensively only ten years ago, a little while after they graduated from art universities. The two artists belong to the generation following Yoshitomo Nara, whose paintings provided a renewed recognition of childhood sensibility and liberated Japan’s contemporary art from Euro-centered ideology. Kawashima and Fukui, who stand in a newly cultivated wilderness and unfold their own world step by step as they reconfirm themselves and others, might represent the adolescence of Japan’s contemporary art evolving from the infancy represented by Nara. Noriko Miyamura / art journalist Translation: Naomi Matsuura