Tuesday, March 23, 2004

In case of Art, break glass! (Part 1 of ???) 

Today, I begin a series of shameless plugs for artists who are Japanese (NOTE: I didn't say Japanese artists) by taking a look at Yasumichi Inoue...but come to think of it, before I get ahead of myself...the blog entries in this series will probably wind up being more like 'roots' (as in 'Root, root, root for the home team'). In any event, they SHOULD under no circumstances be mistaken for 'shout-outs'. (I don't DO 'shout-outs' on this page.)

A picture being worth what it is in relation to words, let's just take a quick look at one of his recent works before going any further...

Yasumichi (Japanese profile) is a young artist who I've recently become acquainted with here in Tokyo. I first saw a short piece on him broadcast on NHK (Japanese public educational TV) about a year ago, and I found his story, and moreover, his work quite intriguing. Yasumichi recently moved to Tokyo from Toyama Prefecture (i.e. the middle of nowhere), and resolved to eke out a living doing ONLY his art. In the broadcast, I saw scenes of him in his hometown, newly-arrived in Tokyo, setting up his studio here (his station is well-placed, and right in the middle of the whole 'Chuo-line culture' thing), painting, and getting out there and really trying with all his might to sell his works.

Since becoming aware of him through that broadcast, I've actually seem him in action a few times around Tokyo, in places like Shibuya...looking rather adrift amidst the cultural flotsam and jetsam there. Several months passed, and I ran into him a while back in Inogashira Park, which he seems to have taken to like a duck to water.

After all, it really one of the best parks in Tokyo, and it's in one of the best towns. (This park seems to have been loved by several of my favorite Japanese modern fiction writers from the 60s and 70s, as I've found it being mentioned in more than one novel.) Well, I finally screwed up enough courage to talk to him, and after a pleasant conversation and a little underhanded bargaining, I wound up leaving as the proud owner of three of his paintings (not pictured here), which at this very moment grace the walls of my Nakameguro studio.

The work above is titled 'Umeyoshi'...Actually, part of the charm of Yasumichi's unmistakable style is that he does most of his works on cardboard box panels, giving them a very unique texture. He also wields a very 'Japanese' looking brush technique, which itself refers to other, more traditional/historical styles. His themes are chosen from a variety of both 'modern' and 'eternal' scenes - from life in 21st century Tokyo ('Tokyo no sabau' and so on) to the imbibic follies of 'oyaji' (old men) sittling around enjoying a nip of the hard stuff before admiting defeat to trudge home to their wives. Simplicity and directness, along with a muted palette are also things that attracted me to his paintings.

On a personal level, his close involvement with undergroundish, grass-roots arts culture along the Chuo-line is more than obvious one a quick glance is taken at his links section. I also know from my conversations and emails with him that he's done some 'action painting'/collaborations before at music events in Japan, which was pretty interesting. To top thing off, he seems fairly politically minded (which I must confess I find do be a disappointing rarity among most Japanese youth who haven't run screaming from this country to find havens in Europe or America), recently inviting me to join him in a recent peace rally (these seem to be poping up everywhere around Japan these days...finally!) in Hibiya-Park.

Anyway, if you have time, please DO drop in and visit his homey website (Japanese only). Like it says on the opening page "...you don't have to be able to understand the words in order to get a feel for the pictures." You'll be glad you did!

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