The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation is delighted to introduce the work of the renowned Japanese painter Akira Yamaguchi to the UK public. The works exhibited here present Yamaguchi’s attempt to resolve the contradiction of being a painter inheriting the legacy of classical Japanese art, but also trained at art school to follow Western (oil-based) painting techniques.
Yamaguchi’s works combine the unusual sense of perspective of fukinuki-yatai (a particular perspective used in Heian-period scrolls) or the bird’s-eye view of traditional Japanese painting with elements of modem and contemporary architecture, obtaining an almost cinematographic effect of movement across planes. The works exhibited present a new development within Yamaguchi’s practice.
In some of his work, Yamaguchi has been influenced by the Kano school painters of the Muromachi period. They developed a painting technique using gold paint to create a perception of depth revealed under a reflective light; different from the expansive depth produced by gold-leafed surfaces. Yamaguchi wanted to create the same visual effect, but by using oil paint instead. He used linseed oil as it is almost transparent when painted. When creating or looking at paintings, Yamaguchi usually does so from an angle where the reflecting light does not come into his line of sight. However, in this case, the painting relies on the reflection of light to be seen. In his work, he paints not the motif itself, but the empty spaces; objects appear in areas missing oil paint. The artwork’s motifs are thereby visible or invisible depending upon how the light catches them and on the viewer’s position. It also gestures toward a singular quality of classical Japanese painting, which was that it was intended to be viewed from multiple angles, as opposed to Western painting which traditionally accommodated one frontal-facing viewpoint.
Simultaneously engaged with classical legacy and contemporary expression, experimenting with different media and questioning the cultural significance of “oil on canvas”, Yamaguchi’s works urge the viewer to reconsider arbitrary boundaries within art history, while inviting us to contemplate the visible and invisible “resonances” of painting.
This exhibition is held in collaboration with Mizuma Art Gallery, Tokyo.
About the artist:
Akira Yamaguchi (b. 1969, Tokyo) graduated from the Tokyo University of the Arts’ Graduate School (Painting Department) with an MA in Oil Painting in 1996. Besides his bird’s eye view paintings of cities or battlefields, he traverses a variety of methods of expression including sculpture, manga and installation. His major solo exhibitions include “TOKIORE(I)MIX” (Maison Hermès 8F Le Forum, Tokyo) and “Yamaguchi Akira: Stepping Back to Seek the Underneath” (Contemporary Art Gallery, Art Tower Mito) amongst others. In 2012, he dedicated a fusuma painting to Shoin of Yorin-an, Byodo-in Temple, Kyoto, and the work was placed on special public view. He has contributed public artworks in several locations including Narita International Airport, on Tokyo’s Fukutoshin Line at Nishi-Waseda station, and at Fujisan World Heritage Center in Yamanashi Prefecture. He has also created illustrative work and cover art for a variety of serialized newspaper stories, novels and so forth, continuing his prolific practice across a broad range of fields.
In 2013, his book Hen-na Nihon Bijutsushi won the 12th Kobayashi Hideo Award.
The exhibition will be on view at the Daiwa Foundation Japan house from Wednesday 3 October to Tuesday 30 October 2018. The opening hours are Monday to Friday 9.30am to 5pm. Admission is free.
Daiwa Foundation Japan House
13/14 Cornwall Terrace (Outer Circle)
An Artist talk will take place on Friday 5 October 2018 from 6pm to 7pm. Admission free, booking essential
Image: Raigo, 2015, oil, sumi (Japanese ink) on canvas. Photo: MIYAJIMA Kei ©YAMAGUCHI Akira, Courtesy of Mizuma Art Gallery