Yuki Yatsu is a nihonga artist who captures “the present” by working from a foundation of classical brushwork and traditional painting materials. The work on display in this exhibition was created with the hope that it will provide a temporary respite for those who are forced to live amid radical changes, such as those wrought by the spread of COVID-19 and acts of war.
Tale for a Moonlit Night
Colour on silk
For me, painting is a way to initiate conversations with society.
Even as I employ classical techniques and themes as a medium, I engage with the contemporary world and construct my own artistic perspective through mitat-e, a style of ukiyo-e that made use of allusions, puns, or parody through its choice of imagery. My exploration of mitat-e began after experiencing the spread of COVID-19, when I sensed an overlap between appeals to broader society and the nature of motifs or subject matter in classical paintings. This particular piece, Tale for a Moonlit Night, alludes to the Bodhisattva Monju Bosatsu, but at the same time, it is also thematically intended as a “place of solace” for the viewer.
The COVID-19 pandemic is now in its third year and we continue to struggle with instability in our daily life. Looking back on the past, I became conscious of the ways we have run through pain for so long, and it became clear that if we now hoped to resume walking, a period of rest is an absolute necessity.
The lion featured in this painting is known as the king of beasts. The only things it fears are the parasitic bugs that feed on its body. However, those bugs are killed if they make contact with the evening dew that falls from peony flowers. As such, the lion rests beneath the peony flower when night falls.
In this painting, even while drawing a direct allusion to Monju Bosatsu, the various patterns that appear include peonies, enabling the image to function as a “place of solace”.
……As I was in the process of working on this theme, the world broke out into war.
It brings me great sorrow to observe that the fires we thought had been extinguished in the 20th century, both pandemics and military invasions, were all too easily reignited.
In times when society is overcome by anxiety and rage, kind people who try to live with sincerity find their hearts worn away all the more, leaving them exhausted. I pray that such people will each find a place of solace and be blessed with a moment of tranquility.
I also hope that whatever solace they do find is not further threatened by violence.
Finally, I note that every painting is born from a combination of the image the artist wants to express and the techniques used to render it. By utilizing classical brushwork and traditional painting materials in the present day, I subject myself to certain constraints, but I also take joy in discovering things which can only be born from those constraints. This is because I believe that cultural homogenization will lead to a more intolerant and boring world. I will thus continue to create my paintings this way while keeping my eyes on the landscape of the future.
11/03/2022(fri) - 19/03/2022(sat)11:00-17:00
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