HOME > Articles-written by Motoaki HORI (EN/JP)

Beyond the Clouds: The Works of Jun Azumatei
Motoaki Hori, Chief Curator, Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery

A series of Jun Azumatei's works that contains depictions of clouds reminded me of Seiki Kuroda's series of six paintings, Clouds (1913). The Clouds series that is in the collection of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, consists solely of clouds that float in the sky. Kuroda portrayed distinct formal features of clouds that can be seen in cumulus, cirrus, altocumulus, and cirrostratus clouds. Each work was done on a board twenty-six centimeters in height and thirty-four centimeters in width. Though he sketched all of them outdoors, there probably were some differences in the time and days that they were created; in one work, for example, the clouds are tinged with red by the setting sun. Kuroda is called the father of modern Japanese Western-style painting, and is known to have made great efforts to transplant orthodox themes and forms from Western paintings to Japan. It is interesting in that he also aspired to visually record the ever-changing states of nature through oil-painting techniques. This can be easily surmised from viewing Clouds, as well as from another series of six works he created a year later entitled Sakurajima Erupting (1914, Kagoshima City Museum of Art), in which he depicted the varying eruptive states of the Sakurajima Volcano.

In comparison to Kuroda's works that convey an impression of looking at an illustrated book of clouds, the clouds that Azumatei depicts all lightly drape across the sky with little change in form. If we were to only focus on the variety of cloud types, it would be quite obvious that the clouds in Kuroda's series are much richer in their changes than in Azumatei's works. In his production process, Azumatei utilizes photos and digital images of the sky and clouds. Even though he uses such technologies, one would be at a loss if asked the question, “Which of the two artists create the more realistic works?” In actuality, Kuroda undoubtedly displays a stronger reproductive expression via the medium of oil painting, while also vividly depicting the subjects in his works.

In his production method, Azumatei takes the photo or digital image that he has captured and repeats a process of applying layers of paint and then polishing the surface, as if he were infiltrating paint into the surface. This allows the painting to possess a unique surface texture that carries a sense of luster. One of the major elements in Azumatei's works is the series of blurs that is accidentally created on the plane through his application of layers of paint. As he polishes the work over time, the blurs change their expressions from day to day, never manifesting the same forms. During this process, Azumatei superimposes the transforming work with the actual kaleidoscopic atmosphere. From his own memories and from the changing appearance of the sky, he perceives the same sense of breathing, sense of warmth, and pulsations as human beings; he is able to harmonize those sensations and sublimate them into a single work. That is why despite his use of photos, Azumatei's works take on similar expressions as abstract paintings, instead of examples of Photorealism.

Another element I would like to point out is the orientation or the angle of his vision in creating his works. This again can easily be understood by comparing Azumatei's works with Kuroda's. Differing from Kuroda's Clouds series that was painted from an upward angle, most of Azumatei's works were created with a horizontal orientation. Due to this angle, houses and streets often appear in his works. Generally speaking, the reasons why the sky looks blue and sunsets look red can be explained by differences in the wavelength distribution of sunlight and the thickness of the atmospheric layers. A horizontal orientation receives a stronger influence from a thicker atmospheric layer than from an upward visual angle. Therefore, in Azumatei's works, the horizontal orientation has a great effect in conveying the sense of an overcast sky. Before turning to his series of clouds, Azumatei used to focus on portraying the human body. The underlying reason for his drastic shift to producing “landscape paintings” was that at the time he lived in London, he came to realize the differences in the climate between England and Japan, such as through actually feeling the differences in humidity. As has already become evident, Azumatei's interest does not lie in the formal features of clouds. He ventures to focus on clouds that hang low as they drift across the sky, instead of clouds that float about in the vast sky. What can be evidently perceived from his works is the sense of aimlessly wandering clouds, rather than a sense of freely floating clouds. However, that sense of aimless, wandering clouds undeniably reflects our present-day situations. It might sound paradoxical, but in Azumatei's works, there is definitely ‘something’ that exists and dwells beyond the draping clouds. The meaning of creating paintings to Jun Azumatei lies in strictly revealing his desire to formalize and to actually convey that uncertain ‘something.’

Translated by Taeko Nanpei


雲の彼方に 東亭順の作品
堀 元彰(東京オペラシティアートギャラリー・チーフキュレーター)

 雲を描く東亭順の一連の作品を見て、黒田清輝の絵を思い出した。東京文化財研究所が所蔵する、空に浮かぶ雲だけを描いた6点組の連作≪雲≫(1913年)だ。いずれも、縦26センチ、横34センチほどの大きさの板に、雲(つみぐも)、券雲(すじぐも)、高積雲(むらぐも)、巻層雲(うすぐも)であろうか、形態的な特徴のはっきりとした雲を描いている。屋外でのスケッチだが、制作した日時には多少とも幅があるのだろう。なかには夕陽を帯びて朱に染まった雲を描くものもある。近代日本洋画の父と呼ばれ、西洋絵画の本格的な主題と形式を日本に移植すべく奮闘したことで知られる黒田だが、油彩画の技法によって刻々と移り変わる自然の様相をそのまま記録にとどめたいという欲求もまた彼のなかにあったことが、この作品や、翌年の桜島大噴火の模様を描いた6点組の≪桜島爆発図≫(1914年、鹿児島市立美術館蔵)などからはっきりと窺われて興味深い。

 さながら雲の図鑑でも見ている印象を与える黒田の作品に対して、東亭順が描くのは、薄っすらと垂れ込めるような雲ばかりで、形態的な変化がきわめて乏しい。雲の種類の多様性という面だけを見れば、黒田の連作の方がはるかに変化に富んでいるのは一目瞭然だ。制作過程において東亭は、空や雲を撮影した写真やデジタル画像を利用している。だが、たとえそうであっても、黒田と東亭の作品のどちらがより写実的かと問われればその答えに窮するだろう。実際のところ、油彩画による再現的表現力を誇示し、対象の迫真的描写に迫るのは黒田の方に違いない。

 東亭の制作方法は、自ら撮影した写真や画像の上に、染み込ませるように、絵具を幾層にも重ねては磨きあげるというものだ。こうして光沢感のある独特の絵肌をもつ画面が出来上がる。塗り重ねられた絵具が画面上に偶然もたらす滲みは、東亭の作品にとって大きな要素となっている。それは日々その表情を変え、二度と同じかたちを繰り返さないものだが、作家はこれに現実の大気の千変万化を重ね合わせる。空模様の記憶や痕跡に、人間と同じ息遣い、温もり、鼓動を感じ、それらを融合させながらひとつの作品にまで昇華させていく。だからこそ、写真を使用しているものの、東亭の作品は、フォトリアリズムというよりも、むしろ抽象絵画のような表情を帯びている。

 もうひとつ注目しておきたいのは、その視線の方向、角度だ。これも黒田の作品と比較するとわかりやすいが、見上げる視線の黒田の≪雲≫とは異なり、東亭の作品のほとんどは水平方向の視点によっており、そのため家並みや街並みまでがしばしば描かれている。なぜ空が青く見え、夕焼けが赤く見えるかという理由が、太陽光線の波長の違いとともに、大気の層の厚さによって説明されるように、水平方向の方がより厚い大気の層の影響を受けることになる。東亭の作品がどんよりとした印象を与えるのはこの水平方向の視線も大きく影響しているはずだ。雲を描く一連の作品以前に、東亭は人体を描く作品を制作していた。それが一転して「風景画」の制作へと移行した背景には、ロンドンに滞在して実感した湿潤の差など、イギリスと日本の彼我の風土の相違に対する認識があった。

 すでに明らかなように、東亭順の関心は雲の形態的特徴にはない。彼はあえて、大空に浮かぶ雲ではなく、垂れ込めるように漂う雲を凝視する。彼の作品から看取されるのは、のびやかな浮遊感ではなく、あてもない漂泊感である。だが、このあてもない漂泊感こそが、彼の作品がまぎれもなく示す現代性だといったらいい過ぎだろうか。逆説的に聞こえるかも知れないが、東亭の作品では、垂れ込める雲の彼方に、何ものかが確かに存在し息づいている。その不確実な何ものかを形象化し、実感しようと希求することが、東亭順の絵画制作にほかならない。