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Natsunosuke MISE: J
Written by Satoshi KOGANEZAWA   
Published: January 04 2009

fig. 1 Natsunosuke MISE, solo-exhibition "J" at IMURA ART GALLERY, copyright © Natsunosuke MISE / Courtesy of IMURA ART GALLERY

fig. 2 Natsunosuke MISE "J" (2008); collage, printed matter collage and acrylic fiber by sumi, gofun, dyestuff, aluminum foils, metallic powder and an inkjet print on Japanese paper, 182×242cm, copyright © Natsunosuke MISE / Courtesy of IMURA ART GALLERY

fig. 3 Natsunosuke MISE "J" (2008); a (folding) screen with collage and printed matter collage by sumi, gofun, dyestuff, aluminum foils, metallic powder and an inkjet print on Japanese paper, copyright © Natsunosuke MISE / Courtesy of IMURA ART GALLERY

fig. 4 Natsunosuke MISE "J" (2008); collage of inkjet prints on Japanese paper and dyestuff, aluminum foils, metallic powder, copyright © Natsunosuke MISE / Courtesy of IMURA ART GALLERY

     Mise’s solo-exhibition, "Strange Scenery" (2006), at gallery neutron was the first time a motif has been shown in his artworks. The details have not always been clear since then, but a crown on the head, a body in armor, and a sword on the left side are obvious from the silhouette. It is not certain what he has on his left hand in the air, but it is probably a bird on top of a bar. The bird looks as if it is flapping its wings to fly away. Viewers have supposed it to be a giant by comparing it with the surrounding other things, and have also associated it with the "Giant Demon" in the Daiei movie released in 1966. However, comparing it with the actual Giant Demon, the armor and sword look similar, but the details such as the crown and bird are different. Is it an original creation from his imagination?

     At his solo-exhibition called "J" at Imura art gallery, he delivered the "J" series*1 which were the first artworks which focused on a motif. To put it bluntly, this "J" means the initial of Emperor Jinmu, regarded the first emperor of Japan. On the right of "J" [fig. 2], there is a back shot with arrows behind, an ink-jet printed collage of Emperor Jinmu. Emperor Jinmu was a legendary figure whose portraits have been painted many times. Mise has selected an image in which he seems to be standing on Mount Odaigahara on the border between Nara and Wakayama prefectures. The reason for this guess is the bird on his shoulder. In Nihon-shoki (Chronicles of Japan), Emperor Jinmu is said to have been guided by Yatagarasu (a three-legged crow) in his expedition to the east when was called Kanyamato-iwarehiko-no-mikoto.

     "The existence between historical fact and legend is 'J'.".*2 As Mise described in the statement for this solo-exhibition, there is great uncertainty about Emperor Jinmu, from his existence itself to his achievements. And the character overlaps his motifs. In the two "J" series artworks exhibited on the first floor, a Loch Ness monster and a UFO are drawn. They might not be "the existence between historical fact and legend", but between reality and legend. In spite of skeptical opinions, many reports and statements regarding a Loch Ness monster have prompted not only me but also other people to imagine an elasmosaur residing in Loch Ness. We "know" the Loch Ness monster and UFOs since they are evoked in our imagination even if they do not exist.

     His "J" is interesting because he does not copy the authorized image of Emperor Jinmu but duplicates it on the one canvas, the same as other motifs. This might mean Emperor Jinmu is uncertain for him, in the same way as the Loch Ness monster and UFOs. So the partial consistencies with the silhouette and the existing statue might be enough for him. The uncertainty is consistent with the title "J". The "J" series include a motif other than Emperor Jinmu. The motif of the two "J" series artworks placed in the first floor of the gallery was Emperor Jinmu, but that of two small artworks using oval canvases placed on the second floor was the UFO. Mise said, "I have the feeling that he will become fierce and rampaging and finally destroy our country if I do not study and understand him enough to draw him.".*3 He did not clarify what "J" was but answered as an aside. So "J" does not mean only Emperor Jinmu.

     Now look at the upper right of the right-hand screen of "J" [fig. 3]. We can find the letter "J" on the long, thin bag which was derived from the bag to generate winds taken by the wind god on the right-hand screen of "Wind God and Thunder God" by Sodatsu Tawaraya, copied by Korin Ogata and Hoitsu Sakai. In order to correspond with "Wind God and Thunder God" with plenty of gold leaves, he utilized silver leaves in a small way. We can find no more clues, but there is little doubt but that Mise was referring to this work. His artworks have many icons requiring tacit knowledge, some of which are obvious, others subtle. Some serve to strengthen our identification as "Japanese" like "J", others are not familiar at all, like the wind bag in "Wind God and Thunder God".

     Along with the power of such thought, his artworks also have the characteristic of great attention to detail. However, you should not think that my descriptions of Emperor Jinmu and "Wind God and Thunder God" are the one and only way of appreciating his works. The above is not a definite instruction but is just for your information. Kazushi Hosaka, the novelist, said, "The novel exists only at 'the time it is being read'.",*4 I think that not only his artworks but also his paintings in general only exist at "the time they are viewed". All theories and creative background are gone, and eyeballs crawl over the canvas and we take a few steps back and forth and around. First, we look at the two giant silhouettes on the verdigris background, then we notice a floating UFO and a circling airplane. When we lower our eyes, there is a crowd of Loch Ness monsters and a boy who projects the word “Analects” from his eyes towards the giants. There are two contradictory characteristics; the scenery and visible theme we can actually see on the painting, and something more hidden and implicated, just beyond the visible. However, the unrealistic scenery under the charcoal and pigments just stands there as “a painting” without letting us consider these characteristics.
(Translated by Chisato Kushida)

At this solo-exhibition, four "J" series in total are displayed: two are on the first floor, two on the second floor. Those on the first floor are a collage of Japanese papers and a pair of folding screens. Those on the second floor are small framed artworks.
See *2
Kazushi Hosaka "Introductory for the one who are hesitating to write a novel" (2003), p139, Soshisha

Related Exhibition

"Natsunosuke Mise: J"
13/Dec/2008 - 27/Dec/2008

Last Updated on October 30 2015

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