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Modern Suibokuga 2009 - Present State of Suiboku Expression
Written by Satoshi KOGANEZAWA   
Published: May 11 2009

     This is the first time that the exhibition entitled “Modern Suibokuga 2009 - Present State of Suiboku Expression” has been co-hosted by the Suiboku Museum, Toyama and Nerima Art Museum. An exhibition of the same title has been held twice since it was held at the Suiboku Museum, Toyama independently. The following 11 artists were chosen as exhibitors this time: Akira Ito, Yoshiyuki Nakano, Mutsumasa Hakozaki, Yasuko Masaki, Ikuro Yagi, Go Ikki, Yoshinori Onaga, Takako Azami, Junichi Matsuda, Natsunosuke Mise and Migiwa Tanaka. Approximately 30 recent works of theirs are displayed in this exhibition. Now, among all the exhibits, I would like to write especially about the works created by Yasuko Masaki and Natsunosuke Mise.

     First, let me introduce Masaki’s paintings. Her two works entitled “Tamayura” (Shihonbokuga, 6 panels, 138.0cm×408.0cm, 2006) and “Tamayura (Tsukuyomi)” (Shihonbokuga, 7 panels, 140.0cm×504.0cm, 2008) are displayed in the middle section of the exhibition room. It is notable that she has drawn lotus flowers in these works, while expressing a far and wide image in them as if the surfaces of these paintings are misted. A lotus flower, which is a water plant, has a significant meaning in Buddhism and is often used together with Buddha in the field of figurative art. Therefore, when I encounter a work in which lotus flowers are drawn, I always feel that the scene depicted in the work is that of heaven or Buddhahood – it is an orderly composed world where, unlike in the present world, there is no pain and hate - whether an artist intends to express such images through his/her work or not.

     Nevertheless, the lotus flowers drawn in Masaki’s work seem to me to evoke a hellish image. Here, the lotus flower does not entertain or soothe viewers with its brightly-colored petals which are on the surface of the water. The lotus flowers depicted in “Tamayura” have extended stems, wriggling, crossing with each other and tumbling as if they are in combat. This drawing presents a somber image, since it appears as if the ink is clinging to the surface of the picture. Regarding this work, there is no typical image of lotus flowers.

Natsunosuke Mise "Hayopira" (2008); courtesy of Nerima Art Museum, copy right(c) Natsunosuke MISE

     Mise’s triptych entitled “Hayopira” (2008) [Notes: 1], which are displayed in the last section of the exhibition room, is also a large-scale work. This picture gives me the image of combat or war because, at first glance, mushroom-shaped clouds, which are drawn in all the three pictures, and contrails which are expressed using bleeding ink evoke for me the image of failure and the crashing (or shooting down) of airplanes. However, there are other reasons why this painting gives me a warlike image. A huge mountain and rays of light that extend radially from spherical volcanic fumes, evoke for me the image of Japanese paintings which were created during World War II, namely, propaganda pictures that were made for boosting national prestige by drawing the combination of Mount Fuji and the national flag of Japan. Considering that most Japanese propaganda paintings had a peaceful image in terms of the way of expression, different from oil paintings, it is clear that in comparison Mise’s work has antithetical characteristics. Nevertheless, in this work, we actually find the national flag of Japan, though it is extremely small in size, and cherry blossoms which are in an impregnable position among flowers in Japan. Therefore, it can be said that Mise expressed a kind of “Japanese” element in this work. When his work entitled “J” (ink, chalk, metallic powder, gold leaf, dye, acrylics and Japanese paper, 2008) won a prize in VOCA 2009, one of the selectors of this award, Hiroshi Minamishima made the comment that it was something like a “war picture”. Nonetheless, “Hayopira” evokes for us the image of a war picture more strongly than “J”.

      In addition, the title “Hayopira” means “an armed cliff” in Ainu. Mise writes the titles of his works in his paintings and in this exhibition too we find that the title “Hayopira” is written in the center of the work entitled “Hayopira 2”. Because they are written in the works, the titles of Mise’s works have a different connotation from titles of other works which are only written in captions. As for “Hapiyora”, while we, the viewers, feel as if volcanic fumes and rays of light are pouring out, we also feel a sense of discomfort with the strange sound of the term “Hayopira”, which is unfamiliar to us. Such a feeling is only applicable to viewers who understand Japanese, so although I experienced it, it may not come across for viewers of other nationalities.

     The above-mentioned works have a significant meaning for me, not only as figurative artworks but also in that they have antithetical characteristics to Japanese paintings, although, like it or not, they remind me of having, within myself, a good deal of Japanese perspective that treats lotus flowers, Mount Fuji or the national flag of Japan as common things. It seems to me that the term “modern” has too extended a meaning to be used in the title of this exhibition, and, indeed, I am not interested in the present state of modern “suibokuga” as a whole. I suppose that what viewers are most interested in is the meaning the artistic expression of a work has for them. That is why I have focused on only two artists here, although there are many other artists in this exhibition.
(Translated by Nozomi Nakayama)

“Hayopira” is composed of these three paintings: “Hayopira 1” (Japanese paper, ink, chalk, printed material and gold leaf, 250.0cm×360.0cm, 2008), “Hayopira 2” (Japanese paper, ink and chalk, 250.0cm×360.0cm, 2008) and “Hayopira 3” (Japanese paper, ink and chalk, 250.0cm×360.0cm, 2008).

Related Exhibition

"Modern Suibokuga 2009 - Present State of Suiboku Expression"
21/Apr/2009 - 31/May/2009
Venue: Nerima Art Museum

Last Updated on June 13 2010

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