Gazing Toward the Face of the others

Yuji Oshita | Assistant Curator, Nakanoshima Museum of Art, Osaka

Kazuma Koike is an artist who has mainly created paintings and sculptures, he has presented works inspired by myths and everyday life. Since around 2015, the motifs used in the works have evolved into old idols, plants, vases, etc. He has created not only paintings, but also ceramic sculptures. They may be statues of deities in the art of Mesopotamia, resemble indigenous totem poles, or take animalistic or fantastical forms. Many of the works are shown in this exhibition, it is as if the “faces” themselves constitute the entire form. 

While it is easy to imagine what the motifs are, we are unable to figure out the directionality they had. The position of the deity statues in mythology can be easily examined today based on the efforts of many pioneers as a historian. However, for example, in the world of ancient Mesopotamia, we only know what they were like and what kind of spirituality they were related. We do not worship their deities and myths. It is fundamentally different from the direct knowledge that would have been in the form of an ancient civilization-like appearance and animals. Today, very few people accept myths and legends as being credible. Once some of the credibility has been forgotten and lost in modern times. As their terms and names leftover being present in anime and video games which is prominently noted in the trends. Otherwise, the phenomenon of using ancient civilizations, indigenous people’s legends and names create the names of anime characters and their world views. Sometimes while changing the gender of historical figures attributed to the fact that Western art has come from a different context from the West as shown that impressionists and others have used Japanese ukiyo-e and artworks from the southern islands, and in cubism and fauvism. The situation is like a modern version of the primitivism approaching African sculptures and primitive ethnic arts of Oceania.

As if linked to the form of such works, Koike attempts to get away from being narratively directed by making the title symbolic unlike conventional works. “BC” in the title of the work is an acronym for black ceramic. It indicates that it is a series of pottery that is literally painted in black, and similarly. “TP” attached to the matière paintings like sand paintings indicates that they form a series called textured paintings. The numbers that follow indicate the date on which the work was completed. In each case, it is a plain sculpture with no indication other than that it is a black sculpture and a painting with a feeling of texture. By attempting to avoid the titles being reminiscent of the content through formalization. The motifs are used by Koike in his works suggest that the forms have lost their former divinity and at the same time, it reflects their own position, seeming to reflect the artist’s own position of not telling myths narratively. 

It is often said that “faces” are a manifestation of others. For example, in Levinas’s concept of “face”, while it appears in front of a person, it possesses the ambiguous aspect of not being recognized by the person. That is, it forms a symbol of what is not always a symbol. No matter how long it has appeared in front of us, when we casually call on other people or other things in a modern sense to an entity that cannot be absolutely reached, and when we name them in the presence of others, it seems that the subject is regarded symbolically, but it also questioned from outside the understanding that can only be touched on symbolically. Neither motifs that can no longer be understood due to changes in the times nor formal titles invite the viewer to any message. What is shown here is neither the fact that these motifs used to be meaningful or their loss nor the current appearance of a sign that has lost significance and has become hollow. It is true that the motifs once possessed by a divine or spiritual nature were, therefore, symbols were presented with instruction or orders. His works maybe tension arises through his work when a motif changes from a hollow state to another state. Rather than regarding Koike’s works as being primitivistic by confronting the state that makes such things possible and the current gentle tension that exists, as symbolization by change occurs. It becomes evident that in the case of things cannot be symbolized and an ambiguous situation is expressed. 

Koike’s grandfather was a gardener. Landscaping can be said to be the act of symbolizing landscapes by maximizing the tension between nature and man-made. Perhaps the changes in their state observed in contrasting installations, such as potted trees and crates, stones and sculptures, impressively reflect processing by human hands. But at the same time, in reality both what we call nature and what we regard as artificial exist. The phenomenon what we parenthetically call myths and indigenous cultures are superimposed on the changes that take place between the title, motif, installation, and beholder. It can be said that this exhibition critically faces the “face” of coexistence and simultaneity of different situations from the coordinates of the state of change. 

24 Jan – 22 Feb 2020
see more detail – Installation view / Black Ceramic sculptures / Textured Paintings / Text in JP