I first met D when her exhibition was part of Asagaya Street Art festival in 2015. Our gallery was running a Bartkira show, also part of the festival and she came along to check it out.
D is quite a famous young artist, she graduated from the same art school as Shinjiro and now as well as creating art she also hosts a popular Tokyo radio show that has an emphasis on exposing Japanese listeners to foreign concepts and people. She interviewed me for it a while back, I'm not sure if my interview was ever broadcast. You are also likely to see her designs on phone cases and letter writing packs but don't let that take away from the fact she is serious about her art and goes to some length to engage her audience in understanding what she is trying to get across in her works. I like that openness about her.
The gallery is just 5mins from Asagaya station and there are a few interesting shops along the way so maybe make a couple of hours of it.
Below is a text taken from the gallery website outlining the concept of the current show-
The DOOR: Return to self
Subtitle: THE LETTER from the future, past, somewhere
Why did you choose that name? What is D? What is your real name? Where do you REALLY come from? That part of your name [di:] is a bit cumbersome, can I skip that part?
These are questions I have been repeatedly asked since I started working under this name.
It’s not Google-friendly, nor very memorable. Even if they have seen some of my work, most people don’t remember my name. There are only a handful of people who can spell my name correctly. Most parcels arrive with the wrong name on the address labels.
But this is actually exactly within my expectation. It’s perfectly fine.
D[di:], consists of one letter D – not any of the Japanese characters – and a phonetic symbol of it. This originated from one syllable of a nickname my friends used to call me. The nickname didn’t even start with D, rather it was the fourth letter in the name.
So, why did I choose this one specific letter?
“It is said that the Buddha once gave a sermon without saying a word; he merely held up a flower to his listeners. This was the famous “Flower Sermon,” a sermon in the language of patterns, the silent language of flowers. … Perhaps the message of the Flower Sermon had to do with how the living patterns of the flower mirror truths relevant to all forms of life.” – Gyorgy Doczi: The Power Of Limit, Chapter 1: Dinergy in Plants
In other words, Buddha made the gesture of Flower Sermon to suggest that the mandala, the enlightenment and the map of similitudes that charts the universe are contained even in the form of a flower.
The way I create artworks using repetitions of densely layered flowers and plants can be seen as me repeatedly building my own version of mandalas – cellular frameworks are comprised of flowers exhibiting their naturally evolved golden ratio to form symbolic figures, and I’m navigating the composition by feeling the harmony within the entire picture’s evolution.
Akashic records – the idea advocated by Rudolf Steiner, of an enormous cosmic memory where all the consciousness of the universe, from past, present and future are stored – do not have any scientific evidence. Yet although the terminology may vary, the concepts of enlightenment, nirvana, the Middle Way, sense of sharing, Heaven and Hell are ubiquitous in a variety of religions all over the world. This makes me believe that Akashic records do exist, though not physically, and even if only in people’s shared consciousness.
I suspect that the act of creation by artists like me is like weaving my own harmonies, reeling a string of events in from this cosmic memory, sensing its lingering impressions and translating the visions and the melodies of the events into stories. People call it “drawing inspirations” or being “afflatus”.
The reason I call my self D[di:] is, in part, to be an open door to worlds like this. To eliminate my personal identities and turn myself into a mere symbol, a device.
Primarily, what are names? What are letters?
As a Japanese word “Kotodama” (Shinto belief that there are spirits residing in spoken words) suggests, names evoke to us certain identities, gender, nationalities and meanings that bind us up to them.
There are lost languages in every corner of the world, their linguistic systems unrecovered, the letters illegible, the meanings incomprehensible. The forgotten knowledge, history, and communication tool that belonged to now-extinct civilisations.
How long will the clear evidence of our existence, the proof that we are here now, survive? No one knows what will happen in 1,000 or 2,000 years. Even the letters we use now may become unintelligible symbols and shapes scribbled on paper or engraved on monuments to future civilisations, evident from the examples of archeological findings in our time. No matter how sophisticated artificial intelligence will get, if they future civilisation can’t boot the machine the AI operates on, it will be just an useless object. Current technologies are hardly reliable or absolute.
In this exhibition, I am focusing on these lost languages, the “doorways” to different worlds, and the other side of these doors as I imagine.
What will you see when you face these pieces, imagining yourself as an alien landed on the earth for the first time with no background knowledge about current human civilisations?
I popped along to the Yamaguchi Akira exhibition at Mizuma Gallery last week.
It runs until 12th December.
Below are a couple of photographs I took and below the photographs text from the Mizuma website to give the photos some context.
Worth visiting if you are in the area.
YAMAGUCHI Akira’s prolific pace of solo museum exhibitions in recent years has encompassed Contemporary Art Gallery Art Tower Mito, the Kirishima Open Air Museum, the Equine Museum of Japan and now the Ehime Museum of Art (continuing until November 20th).
Further, in 2013 he won the Kobayashi Hideo Prize upon the publication of Hen-na Nihon Bijutsu-shi, a close analysis of Japanese art from Yamaguchi’s unique perspective. This year he has continued to enjoy flourishing success with a commission to complete a 5.4 x 7.7 metre mural, as the symbolic central painting of the newly-opened Fujisan World Heritage Center in Yamanashi Prefecture.
Yamaguchi’s singular means of artistic expression, often stylistically compared with classical Japanese Yamato-e painting, originated during his time as an art school student. He felt unable to discover an intrinsic, self-directed motivation in the context of the painting course on which he was enrolled, which enforced the aesthetic standards and methods of Western-derived painting.
Within Japan’s long history, the borrowed notion of the ‘oil painting’ technique exists as a discontinuous entity. This led the artist to wonder what, if anything, it would be possible for him to create with such a method. That impasse became a catalyst for Yamaguchi’s encounter with classical Japanese art. He felt great admiration for such pioneering figures within Japanese art history and the finesse of their powers of expression, which led him to think - ‘This, surely, is what I should study; this is the lineage of which I would like to my work to become a descendant.’ Through continuous ‘case-study practice’ of the formal qualities of traditional Japanese painting, Yamaguchi began to gain an understanding of the dispositions of the classical painters. He then wondered whether he could accede to their legacy using painting materials and subject matter that were both contemporary. His work has thus become another successor to the lineage of traditional Japanese styles - working with oil paint.
As such, Yamaguchi Akira has for many years been pursuing a personal artistic investigation of the construction and formal qualities of Japanese classical painting. In this exhibition, he presents new work created from a perspective of exploring resonances between the flow of contemporary art from the 20th century onwards, and that of traditional Japanese painting from the Muromachi Period (1338-1573) until the start of the Meiji (1868).
Please find below some key concepts with regard to the new artworks.
- A sense of depth created by a multi-stratification of the planar motifs of Sesshū (Sesshū Tōyō, 1420-1506).
- Work that possesses a sense of rapture toward the potential spatial effects embodied by the use of gold leaf, as seen in fusuma-e (folding screen) works of the Kanō school.
- A strong awareness of the paintings of Cezanne, through personal perceptive experience.
- A fixation with structures the artist has glanced upon while walking, such as construction sites, electricity poles, etc.
- A compositional focus on the features of various mechanisms, the seats of the Tokyo Monorail, and Kyoto’s Katsura Imperial Villa, amongst others.
The above may appear to be scattered or haphazard notions, but for Yamaguchi they all possess an equal significance. For all of them, if one is not consciously aware of them they seem to be in a state of resonance with nature. The paintings, sculptures and installation works shown in this exhibition are manifestations of the resonance of such pluralistic elements.
Yamaguchi has heretofore been exploring the question of how to pursue the act of painting within contemporary Japan. We warmly invite you to experience it yourself in this exhibition, where even direct opposites come to seem aligned.
I remember coming to see a Trevor Brown exhibition at the same gallery (SPAN) in either 1996 or 2000, I cannot remember. This exhibition was a collaboration with a Japanese artist called NaNa.
Trevor lives in Asagaya, the same place we have our gallery, so he sometimes pops in to the gallery to see exhibitions that tickle his fancy.
I popped along to the Halloween Party and took a few snaps and here they are....
Gallery link below the photographs.