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Junji YAMADA: The Pure Land
Written by Satoshi KOGANEZAWA   
Published: August 03 2009

fig. 1 “(09-2) NACHI FALLS (B)” (2009); panel, photographic paper, Intaglio on Photo, resin, 159cm×57.8cm, courtesy of Chukyo University Art Gallery "C·Square", copy right(c) Junji YAMADA

fig. 2 “(09-4) Dance of Flames” (2009); gelatin silver print, 100cm×44.7cm, courtesy of Chukyo University Art Gallery "C·Square", copy right(c) Junji YAMADA

fig. 3 view from "Junji Yamada: About Painting - The Pure Land -" at Chukyo University Art Gallery "C·Square", courtesy of Chukyo University Art Gallery "C·Square"

     Junji Yamada creates works using his original technique called “Intaglio on Photo”, in which he first creates a three-dimensional figure by using various kinds of materials, such as cement plaster, wood, wire, clay or resin, and after taking a picture of it, engraves the photographic paper using the etching press. Yamada uses this unique technique effectively to change the image of his work to one showing “the real thing” - i.e. a stereoscopic work - which shows the form of his work at the beginning of its creation process. The combination of the two processes, namely, photographing and etching, gives us a different image of his stereoscopic work. In this exhibition entitled “Junji Yamada: About Painting - The Pure Land -” (C-SQUARE, 02/Jul/2009-29/Jul/2009), we were given an opportunity to think about the issue of symbolism and substance in a theoretical space, in which two different kinds of creations were displayed together within one site - one kind was made using Intaglio on Photo, and the other was a set of huge installations

     I suppose some of the exhibits, including the “(09-2) NACHI FALLS (B)” (panel, photographic paper, Intaglio on Photo, resin, 159cm×57.8cm, 2009) [fig. 1] and the “(09-4) Dance of Flames” (gelatin silver print, 100cm×44.7cm, 2009) [fig. 2], would give an experience of déjà vu to viewers familiar with Japanese art history . This is because the “(09-2) NACHI FALLS (B)” was created based on the “Nachi Waterfall” (kenpon-choshoku, 159.3cm×58.0cm, Nezu Museum), which was made in the Kamakura Era and the “(09-4) Dance of Flames” was created referring to the “Dance of Flames” (kenpon-saishoku, 120.3cm×53.8cm, 1925, Yamatane Museum of Art), which was drawn by a Japanese-style painter, Gyoshu Hayami, who was active from the Meiji Era to the Showa Era. In the above two works, Yamada used an inventive approach. In the former, he added a number of humorous designs, such as those of stars and owls, by using an etching method on the original solemn scene, in which a waterfall is drawn. In the latter, although there is no addition to the original, he exercised his inventiveness in some parts of the work, for example, moths, which were drawn around the flames in the original, disappear in Yamada’s version.

     Therefore, the two works mentioned above can be considered to have been made by referring to classical paintings which are famous in the history of art. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, in this exhibition, his completed creations as well as their original forms - three-dimensional figures - were displayed [fig. 3], from which we could recognize that his works had been created not only by extracting from past paintings but by remaking them into stereoscopic works during the process of their creation. In addition, at first glance, the three-dimensional figures displayed in this exhibition made us feel that he had intended to show them from his kindness to present creating processes of planar works to us. Nonetheless, in fact, looking at them for a while, we came to wonder how on earth these planar creations had been made from such three-dimensional figures. In other words, the stereoscopic works stirred our imagination much more weakly than the planar works did. Also, in contrast to three-dimensional figures, planar creations gave us a wide and even a superb impression. What do these differences between planar works and stereoscopic creations mean?

     Here, let me introduce Yamada’s statement that “Indeed, the paintings were created using only materials, but the very nature of pictures is an ideal of absence which we find through them. An essential thing to present this ideal would be dedication to paintings, namely, total belief in pictures or adoration of them.” Regarding this statement, I would like to focus particularly on the phrase “an ideal of absence”. This can be applied to every painting. “An ideal of absence” means that paintings give us other images, for example, beauty or nobility, than those of the physical matter they incorporate, such as paint and paper. Ultimately, Yamada raised an extremely large question by saying “What is a painting?” with his willingness to reveal the structure of his own creations. This seems to be a representation of “The death of the author (La mort de l'auteur)” (Roland Barthes), which means that it would be impossible for an author to tell everything about his piece.

     Again, referring to Yamada’s works, the attraction of planar works made me feel that the “(09-4) Dance of Flames” would have been perfectly established even in the absence of the etching process, though I had known about its original stereoscopic figure. On the other hand, regarding the “(09-2) NACHI FALLS (B)”, I felt confused about the lightness and cuteness of his addition, which could not be imagined from its original work. I wonder to what extent he intended to give us the different kinds of impression of each creation. Nonetheless, it can be said that Yamada’s works, which were created with the aim of realizing his own world of imagination through several different processes, play a role in proving that he has great pride as an artist. Indeed, in light of his statement, the new creations shown in this exhibition may have made only a modest impression, but I felt he showed his mettle by reproducing past paintings in his own style.
(Translated by Nozomi Nakayama)

Last Updated on October 24 2015

Editor's Note by Satoshi Koganezawa

Yamada’s new works that refer to ideas from historically famous paintings of eastern and western countries are exhibited as well as the exhibition in Chukyo University Art Gallery "C•Square". However, there are some works not exhibited in the C Square, and there is no installation of a prototype model there. The ideas in my review on the exhibition in the C Square cannot be applied to this exhibition. The ideas in the review of the exhibition of the C Square were prompted by the installation of the prototype work, but there is no prototype work exhibited this time. It seems easier to view his works in this exhibition because of this simple layout with only plane works.

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