HOME > Articles-written by Natsumi ARAKI (EN/JP)

The Device to View the World

Natsumi Araki (curator, Mori Art Museum)

The tranquil space created by Jun Azumatei was also pervaded with a sense of strong force. Sand was evenly laid inside a huge, shallow, T-shaped box, and his nine circular paintings were embedded within the sand. The randomly arranged circular paintings stood out due to the use of spotlights, creating a carefree rhythm. He also exhibited two other identically shaped paintings on the wall so that they could harmonize with the installation on the floor. In each painting, white figures emerged from within the base color of sky blue, green or beige.

Azumatei used to create paintings that possessed a photo-like gloss, using a method in which he applied layers of paint on a photo that he took himself, showing a scene such as a skyscape; he would then varnish and polish the surface with a file. This revealed a world of counteractions between the figurative and the abstract, and also between the mediums of photography and painting. In these paintings, he fixated on the “something” that resurfaced from his past experiences that had been deposited in his memory. Through the series of procedures he undertook, a unique smooth texture was manifested without any traces of brushstrokes, which also helped create more distance from the medium of painting. Nonetheless, Azumatei’s works were characterized by the fact that they unquestionably contained the element of “painting,” which was, in a way, classical in its very nature. His attempt to step out from such expressions was shown in his series Float/Circle (2006), in which he removed the framework of painting by randomly arranging small circular paintings (each eighteen centimeters in diameter) on walls. The circular shapes generated movement through their release from being tied to notions of “top” and “bottom.” In this way, he expanded the possibilities of installation that could be derived from painting. That is to say, he shifted his perspective from a focus on his experimental production processes that allowed the creation of a single painting, to one in which he could construct a space using multiple works.

However, his early works in the Float/Circle series were at the initial experimental stage. In this exhibition, he achieved his presentation of a creative landscape that was both innovative and invigorating, with a composition that daringly arranged large-scale circular paintings, each 180 centimeters in diameter (ten times larger than the earlier works in the series). His paintings were no longer just hung on walls, but also embedded in sands of the earth. This installation was able to be viewed from any angle, as a result of Azumatei’s aim to have viewers enjoy his work without limiting any directions or its frontal position. Thus, this work was released from all the restrictions involved in painting, including the form, the angle, and the exhibition method. He said that even the basic material for the work was not always a photo as it was in the past. This meant that his typical theme of a “photo,” which strongly characterized his previous works, was no longer his primary concern.

The images in Azumatei’s “horizon” paintings remind us more of water than the sky. In actuality, when one views this type of work in a squatting position, the light reflected on the smooth surface shines as if it were a pond or a puddle. On the other hand, one could say that each of his “sky” paintings is turned into a “water mirror” that reflects the sky. This type of work contains a passive element in that the image is similar to a transparent pool of water that manifests its existence through reflecting the colors on its surface. Despite the fact that these two types of paintings are quite large in scale, each one hardly claims its individuality as a “painting.” Rather, as a whole, they attract the eyes of viewers as “landscapes” that can be associated with nature.

Azumatei’s installation reminds us of a Japanese garden, in that along with the image conveyed from the sand, it allows us to recall nature even though it is an artificial object. From ancient times, a garden in Japan has functioned as a device to allow people to imagine a vast ocean or mountains, via the exquisite arrangement of water, stones, sand, and plants. The idea of a Japanese “dry landscape garden,” which derived from Zen Buddhism in the Kamakura (1192-1333) and Muromachi (1333-1573) periods, would further deepen the symbolic nature of a garden through the use of white sand instead of actual water to express a pond or ocean. It is the eyes of our inner souls that try to see nature and gaze into the universe via a landscape made out of plain stones and sand. Azumatei aimed to reveal what exists beyond his paintings through having viewers freely view his installation that was created in the image of a garden.

Azumatei wrote the following in his statement for this exhibition:

I remember that the first English textbook I was given when I entered my junior high school began with the Swahili greetings “Jambo!” and “Habari!” When I turned the page to Lesson One, I saw an unfamiliar map-like diagram that occupied the upper part of that page, but I could not immediately understand what it was. On closer look, I realized it was a reversed world map. My reason for saying that it was reversed is because the world map I had known up to that time had the North Pole at the top, the South Pole at the bottom, Japan in the central area, the Eurasian continent on the left side, the American continents on the right, and Australia slightly up in the center…At the time, I felt that the reversed map contained enigmatic and rich possibilities. I thought that we might have failed to see essential matters while living in a world that determines all directions based on gravitation. I also thought that there must be visions that only the people who have gone to the outer space know, and that there might be a world that only bats could see.

Azumatei seeks visions that we have overlooked through doubting the points of view that we have become accustomed to in our daily lives. As if to show viewers the “reversed world map,” he stirs our fixated views and ideas so that we can look at the world with a more open mind. That is why his works may at times convey a sense of incongruity, and thus why viewers may feel uncomfortable. However, this is a subject that every one of us should face in order to understand others, as well as to discover our own hidden potentials. Azumatei’s attempt to sublimate the medium of painting so that it can act as a device for us to philosophize on our own lives will no doubt continue to open up new landscapes for us to view.

Translated by Taeko Nanpei


世界を見る装置
荒木夏実(森美術館キュレーター)

 静謐さとともに強い力を放つ空間が広がっていた。T字状に分岐する矩形の浅い箱に砂が平らに敷かれ、そこに9枚の円形の絵画が埋められている。ランダムに置かれた円は、スポットライトによって浮き彫りになり、軽やかなリズムを生む。床のインスタレーションと呼応するように、壁面にも2点、同形の作品が設置されている。それぞれ水色や緑、ベージュを基調とした色彩の中に、白い模様が浮かびあがる。

 これまで東亭順は、自ら撮影した空などの写真に幾層も絵具で彩色し、ニスを塗ってヤスリで研磨するという方法で、写真のような光沢をもつ絵画を制作してきた。それは具象と抽象、写真と絵画のせめぎあう世界である。記録が記憶の中に沈殿し、再び浮かびあがってきた「何か」を、東亭は画面に定着させてきた。作業の工程を重ねることによって、筆跡を残さず、絵画の直裁さからは距離をもつ、つるつるした独特の物質感が表出する。それでもなお、どこか古典的でれっきとした「絵画」感をもつところが、東亭の作品の特徴でもあった。そこから一歩脱する試みとして《Float / circle》(2006年)のシリーズでは、直径18cmの小円形の絵画を複数壁に散らし、絵画というフレームを外してみせた。天地を決めない円形のもつ自由さが動きを生んだ。一枚の絵にこめてきた実験的な制作過程の視点を、複数による構成へと移し、絵画から派生したインスタレーションへの可能性を広げた。

 しかしながら《Float / circle》は、まだ初期的な実験だったといえよう。今回の展示では、直径を10倍の180cmへと変えた大型の円を大胆に配した構成で、斬新かつ清々しい風景の創造に成功した。絵画はもはや壁から離れ、地の砂に埋まる。天地と左右、正面を限定せずに見方を鑑賞者に委ねたいと考える東亭の意図に従って、展示はどこからでも見ることが可能だ。形、方向、展示方法全てが絵画の決まりごとから解放されている。基準となる素材は、写真の場合とそうでない場合があるという。東亭の作品の大きな特徴であった「写真」というテーマすら、こだわりの対象とはなっていない。

 地平の絵画は、空よりも水に近いイメージを想起させる。実際、しゃがんで低い位置から眺めると、その滑らかな表面が光を反射して池や水溜りのように輝く。空の絵は、空を映しこむ水鏡になった。透明な水が、色を映すことによってその存在を表すかのような、受動的な要素がここにはある。かなり大型のサイズであるにも関わらず、「絵画」として独立した作品の主張は少なく、自然と結びつく「風景」として見る者の目を引きつけている。

 今回使われている砂のイメージとあいまって、人工物でありながら自然を連想させる東亭の作品は、日本庭園を想わせる。古くから日本の庭は、水、石、砂、植物を絶妙に配置しながら、雄大な海や山をも連想させる装置として機能してきた。鎌倉・室町時代に禅の思想と結びついた枯山水は、水を使わず白砂を池や海に見立て、庭の象徴性をさらに深めた。簡素な石や砂の風景から自然、さらには宇宙までを見ようとするのは、内面にある心の目である。東亭は庭のように「見立て」を鑑賞者に委ねて、絵画の先にある何かを見せようとしている。

東亭は本展のステートメントの中で次のように語っている。

「中学校に入学した時に渡されたはじめての英語の教科書は『Jambo!』『Habari!』とスワヒリ語の挨拶から始まったように記憶しています。次のレッスンのページをめくると、見慣れない地図のような図がページ上部を占めていて、瞬時に何の図か理解できませんでした。しかし、よく見てみると逆さまになった世界地図だったのです。逆さまの世界地図だったというのも、僕が知っている世界地図というのは北極が上で南極が下で中央に日本があって左にユーラシア大陸、右にアメリカ大陸であり、オーストラリアが中央やや上部に描かれたものではなかったからです。(中略)重力によって上下左右を決定された生活の中で、何か決定的なモノを見損なっている可能性があるのではないか?宇宙へ行った人間にしかわからない視線があるだろうし、こうもりにしか見えない世界があるのかもしれない。そこには何だかわからない豊かな可能性があるように想像してしまったのです。」

 東亭は、日常の中で慣らされている人間の視点を疑い、見過ごされているヴィジョンを探ろうとする。逆さまの地図を見せるように、凝り固まった視野と思想に揺さぶりをかけ、もっと自由に世界を見ようと考える。ときにそれは違和感を生み、居心地の悪い感覚を伴うかもしれない。しかしそれは、他者を理解するため、そして自分の隠れた可能性を引き出すために、私たち誰もが挑戦するべき課題だ。絵画を思索の装置にまで昇華させようとする東亭の試みは、これからも新しい風景を切り開いていくことだろう。