Touch me if you can…
“Gallery Review,” Bijutsu Techo Monthly Art Magazine (January Edition, 2006, p. 213)
Yuichiro Takashima, Curator, Setagaya Art Museum
In recent years, Jun Azumatei has developed his works toward conveying a new point of view. He has consistently utilized a method of “manipulating” the optical traces of a photo with a paintbrush to create a mirage-like expression through the application of varnish over the existing objects. His artistic perspective has unmistakably deepened as a result of his incorporating the method of painting utterly imaginary objects, as well as through creating works by inverting the scene found in a photo and then painting over it.
At a glance, Azumatei’s works seem as if they were created based on a distinct two-layer structure. This structure is not only found in his theme of “the relationship between architecture (the foreground) and clouds (the background),” but also in the binary, opposing materials used in “painting and photography.” But in his work, the brushstrokes that should most strongly reflect his manipulative actions merely erase the details of the buildings in the photo; thus, they result in disturbing our imagination. The dimly shining surface that has been varnished and polished is completely devoid of the texture of paint; the artist leaves only the visual traces of brushstrokes. Such a suspended state of affairs organically develops within his work.
Azumatei’s manipulative actions are based on his intent to assimilate the reality of photography with the (internal) truth of memories, in a way in which they can conform to his own memories. While memories tend to become more indistinct with the passage of time, photos can leave behind excessive information. Thus, in Azumatei’s case, the truth rests in the ambiguous scenes that have been reduced into the color-fields of his works. In this process, he varnishes over the buildings in the photo with a dusky-gray color, making it appear as if they are covered in mist. And as his intention is reflected in the surface of his work, the sea of clouds in the background that possesses a concrete form gradually overtakes the color-field in the foreground and ultimately engulfs it. Therefore, our ordinary recognition of the foreground and background relationship becomes reversed.
Furthermore, in recent years, Azumatei has painted nonexistent scenes of natural objects (mainly trees and mountains) on photos that are incorporated upside down in his works. It might sound like an exaggeration, but his works somehow remind us of typical scenes found in nature. They reveal memories of nature that have remained in our minds and that are seen as being so natural to the extent that they become unnatural; or else they reveal the ambiguous memories we possess toward nature. The mischievous manipulations he makes in his works allow us to realize how impure and untrustworthy our own memories are. However, the most essential element in his work is the mental image that is manifested within our own minds; thus, his aim does not lie in pointing out the differences between a mental image and reality. In the process of conceiving mental images, we are provoked into grasping the truth that can be glimpsed from his work, though those mental images are often contrary to the artist’s intention. Through his manipulative actions that are aimed at carefully eliminating realities, Azumatei’s works successfully elucidate the truths that paintings are capable of encompassing.
Translated by Taeko Nanpei
さらに、東亭は近年、天地を逆にした写真に、ありもしない風景 ー 主に木や山といった自然物 ー を加筆する。だが、それらはどこか典型的な自然を想起させるとは言い過ぎだろうか。我々の記憶に留まる、不自然なまでの自然すぎる自然。自然に対する曖昧な記憶。彼の悪戯によって、自らの記憶がいかに不純かつ不実なものか我々は思い知らされる。ただ、何より重要なのは、ここに立ち現れる心象そのものであり、それと現実の差異ではない。その過程で我々は垣間見える真実を掴もうと奮い、その結果は思惑と相反するのが常なのだから。彼の作品は、絵画が内包しうるそうした真実を、事実を丁寧に消し去っていく所為によって見事に明示していた。