|Taro YAMAMOTO: Nippon-ga - New but Classical Japanese Art -|
|Written by Satoshi KOGANEZAWA|
|Published: July 02 2009|
fig. 1 "Banzai for Kyoto Renaissance Screen" (Executive President Award) (2000); Japanese mineral pigment on paper with gold leaf, 182cm×364cm, collection of Kyoto University of Art And Design, courtesy of IMURA ART GALLERY, copy right(c) Taro YAMAMOTO
fig. 2 “Wind God and Thunder God (Left screen)” (2005); Japanese mineral pigment on paper with gold leaf, 169.8cm×154.5cm, collection of Tohoku Shinsha, courtesy of IMURA ART GALLERY, copy right(c) Taro YAMAMOTO
fig. 2 “Curtain or Flag in Four Seasons” 82009); Japanese mineral pigment on paper with gold leaf, 169cm×167cm, courtesy of IMURA ART GALLERY copy right(c) Taro YAMAMOTO
A flag of the Rising Sun fills the left-hand screen and an array of elderly men with the same face, wearing school uniforms and towels around their heads, are drawn on the right-hand screen. In the past, a number of paintings, such as this folding screen, were created using a sonorous style of depiction with the aim of boosting national prestige. Nonetheless, this work entitled “Banzai for Kyoto Renaissance Screen (Executive President Award)” (Japanese mineral pigment on paper with gold leaf, 182cm×364cm, 2000, Kyoto University of Art And Design) [fig. 1] was presented in 2000, at the beginning of the 21st century before the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred. Taro Yamamoto, who has been creating “Nippon-ga” since 1999, created this piece as his graduation work. In the graduation exhibition held at Kyoto University of Art And Design, which Yamamoto was attending, the President Award is offered to the student who has created the most excellent work among the exhibits. The word, “Executive President Award”, included in the title, was created by Yamamoto. He made this work based on the Executive President’s portrait. Is it not comical that he depicted the Executive President as with his hair untidy? This work made me laugh because there was a mismatch between the screen images on the left and right sides; the former was macho and the latter was playful.
Although in recent years the number of artworks in which we, the viewers, can recognize the subjects has been decreasing, most of Yamamoto’s works are more familiar since they parody Japanese paintings. For example, Yamamoto’s work entitled “Wind God and Thunder God 〈Left screen〉” (Japanese mineral pigment on paper with gold leaf, 169.8cm×154.5cm, 2005) [fig. 2], which was created using a motif of a TV cartoon character, was made by imitating, in its idea and composition, the folding screen named “Wind God and Thunder God” (Kenninji) created by Sotatsu Tawaraya. Another work by Yamamoto entitled “Nirvana” (Japanese mineral pigment on silk, 181cm×108cm, 2004), which is a picture of Buddha on life-support and undergoing medical treatment, was created by copying in part the “Nirvana”, which is often used as a stylized drawing expressing deliverance from earthly bondage. Besides the above, in the work named “Black Bull and Donald's Party” (Japanese mineral pigment on paper with gold leaf, 166cm×366cm, 2003), Yamamoto drew a cow, which provides the meat for hamburgers, surrounded by McDonald's characters. In this work, Donald is drawn in a strange pose, bending at the waist, which is a clear imitation of the motif of a young man leaning against a sword in the second panel of the “Hikone Folding Screen” (Hikone Castle Museum), which cannot be said to be well-known but is an excellent work of the Edo era. Apart from the works mentioned above, Yamamoto has extracted ideas from uncounted numbers of classical creations. For example, he has made works by extracting from artworks such as the “Raigo-zu” and the “Tagasone Screens”, which have also been referenced by many other artists, and he has created works reminding us of many other specific works, including the “Landscape with the Sun and the Moon” (Kongouji) and the “Morning Glories” (by Hoitsu Sakai, The Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art). Yamamoto’s works include very varied elements, such as characters of cartoon films and fast-food chains, telegraph poles and traffic lights, and roads, used as representations of our time, in such classical works as those mentioned above.
In this way, “Nippon-ga”, which is admired by Yamamoto, expresses the humorous aspects of present-day Japan directly by using Japanese traditional techniques. Specifically, it represents the Japanese characteristic of fostering a hybrid culture by actively accepting foreign cultures. And also, Yamamoto includes numerous comedic elements in his “Nippon-ga”.
Indeed, some viewers may find a certain unscrupulousness in his creations in that he seems to have made his works with the aim of attracting viewers by extracting ideas from classic paintings, but in fact we should regard his borrowing not as an end but as a means, considering that not all the classical works referred to by Yamamoto are popular today. In his latest work entitled “Curtain or Flag in Four Seasons” (Japanese mineral pigment on paper with gold leaf, 169cm×167cm (in each), 2009) [fig. 3], which is a folding screen of two panels, we cannot find this characteristic of parodying classic artworks. In this quality work, while drawing various kinds of figures and images of a highly anonymous nature within this one work, Yamamoto has succeeded in including comedic factors. The high quality is also the result of the exquisite composition of this work and the definite improvement of his painting skill. Although Yamamoto drew cranes in the same pose in two other works, the above mentioned “Curtain or Flag in Four Seasons” and the “Pine, Bamboo and Plum” (Japanese mineral pigment on paper with gold leaf, 53cm×45.5cm, 2008) [fig. 4], we see that his skill has improved in that the strength of drawing has dramatically increased in the former compared to the latter. This solo exhibition of Yamamoto, entitled “Taro Yamamoto: Nippon-ga - New but Classical Japanese Art-” (Art Museum “Station” KYOTO, 22/May/2009-14/Jun/2009) provided me with an invaluable opportunity to confirm the consistency of his expression since it presented approximately fifty of his works, including earlier works as well as the latest creations.
"Taro Yamamoto: Nippon-ga - New but Classical Japanese Art -"
|Last Updated on October 24 2015|