Exhibitions Review "The Leeds Guide"

Wed 03 Dec - Thu 25 Dec 2003

Tomoya Yamaguchi

Beneath the seductive surface of this art lie the horrors of Hiroshima.

At first sight Yamaguchi's large-scale paintings are simple painterly abstraction, but when examined in detail there is something disquieting and yet quietly attractive to the canvases. Although he addresses grand themes of life, death, time and our relationship with nature, the wellspring of inspiration is born from his early family life in Japan.

Yamaguchi's father was in Hiroshima when the bomb fell, but Yamguchi only learned of this when he found his father's medical card. Even then his father continued to conceal any outward sign of ill-health and never spoke about his experience. nothing was as it surface in Yamaguchi's home. His work is ordered chaos, as if he is trying to make sense of the horrors of war and his father's calm silence that belied his suffering. At the entrance to the main gallery are two of the smaller paintings ('Untitled 6 & 7'), whose central motif is an urn-like shape echoing the vase-like forms in the sculptural pieces that lie like discarded seed pods on the gallery floor. At first sight, and without being able to touch them, you are convinced they are ceramic; in fact they are plywood covered in graphite powder to give a rough glazed effect. Yamaguchi explains that the idea came from a coffin that makes this quite paradoxical-the discarded pod that gave birth to life is also a vessel for the dead.

To the side isa vast black canvas covered with thin loops of creamy, almost golden paint, that circle inwards framing a black hole. "Sometimes the hole is an exit, sometimes an entrance", says Yamaguchi. You may assume Yamaguchi has used some kind of pendulum array to swing and swirl the paint onto the canvas, a form of action painting, but in fact it was done by hand. Again Yamaguchi contradicts assumptions, lifting the work away from what could be a suffocating sense of morbidity.

His hatred of war and sorrow for Hiroshima are painted out in the 'oil on water series (2, 3 & 5)'. The black and white work represents the bomb drop; elsewhere red and black symbolises blood floating on puddles of black rain, and white on red is the molten fat of burned bodies laying over pools of blood. The ' Rain' series, a long rhythmic array of white concentric circle, the negative space painted in vibrant ultramarine, is possibly his most successful painting work. The rain is black rain after an atomic strike but he exchanged black for blue. Yamaguchi explains; "Black is negative, I wanted to do the opposite, make something positive". So it sings with life, as if snowflakes had given up their fractal crystalline nature and gone minimalist, descending in a harmonious blizzard in a perfect blue sky.

Originally performed as part of concert pieces with pianists Sarah Nicolls and Yukiko Shinohara, the videos 'teki' and 'moromoro' are a collaboration with composer Dai Fujikura. Fujikura persuaded Yamaguchi to overcome his dislike of video to work on a film project. This is not video installation but duets of painting and music. The images are incredibly simple, but married with Yamaguchi's exquisite editing the work has the same lightness as the rain series. It is the light at the end of what is a dark journey through Yamaguchi's deep and thought-provoking work.

Untill 20 December, Huddersfield Art Gallery

Elizia Volkmann

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Exhibitions PREVIEW "The guide" The Guardian

Sat Nov 15 - Fri Nov 21 2003

TOMOYA YAMAGUCHI, Huddersfield Art Gallery

In the theoretically belaboured contemporary art world, the paintings and sculptures of Tomoya Yamaguchi appear as simple and startling as Zen riddles. The spiritual delight afforded by observing a frog leaping into a pond ("plop!") or listening to the sound of one hand clapping ("...") finds an echo in contemplation of Yamaguchi's untitled primal doodlings. Using this back-to-beginning, profoundly touchy-feely approach, it's almost as if the artist lets his hand go wherever it may to improvise these archetypal eddies, vortices, black holes, woven globes and fluttering crystalline patterns.


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"Bijutsu Techo" Japanese Monthly Art Magazine

Vol.51, No.766, January 1999

Exhibition Review

By: Hidenori Kurita, Curator Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art Kohji Ogura Gallery, Nagoya Japan

The overwhelming impression as the viewer enters the gallery is of hundreds of white rain droplets filling one’s vision. Unbelievably the white lines of the painting is virgin canvas and the black is texually applied paint. Laid in front of the elongated painting is a cluster of dark terracotta coffin like sculptures.

The coffin/cone like sculptures consist of a series of joined disks, a hole pierces the length of each piece allowing the viewer to see down through them, the outer surface is covered with powdery iridescent dark terracotta.

The painting with its white circles distracts eye and pulls the viewer ever deeper within it; the sculpture in contrast offers solidity and reticence in its form, emitting an appreciative calmness.

The painting has the beguiling power of a 3D piece, paradoxically the sculpture is the serene force in the room, this role reversal is both liberating and extremely interesting.

The Artist’s theme incorporates both time and perception and subsumes the past, present and future, becoming a model and expression for both time and space.

I believe that the Artist has successfully achieved the transformation of his thought into work and I look forward to seeing further work from this rare and unusual artist which brings his rational to the fore.

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