Unfortunately, due to the effects of covid-19, we were unable to present the solo exhibition of Cambodian artist Khvay Samnang as initially planned. As a result, the group exhibition presented on this occasion was initiated.
In the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, people are subjected to wearing masks. It is not possible to see the face. People who become acquainted for the first time will never see each other’s faces, unless they meet again in the future. Even with those who we are familiar with, we have no choice but to imagine their faces we had seen in the past. Well, of course, this is on the condition that we don’t have an opportunity to dine with them.
Under such circumstances, the idea to organize an exhibition based on the “face” had come to mind, as I realized that many of the artists of Tomio Koyama Gallery have engaged in creating work based on this theme. What kind of appeal and significance does the face have for these artists? Why do they continue to depict the face? Along with these gallery artists, as a guest artist, we invited Kaoru Arima from MISAKO & ROSEN to take part. Furthermore, we are pleased to include a modern watercolor work by the late Katsuzo Satomi, who while also being famous for landscape paintings, I feel has depicted vivid paintings of faces that reflect contemporary sensibilities. The work was kindly loaned to us by the family of the artist, with the cooperation of Gallery Art Morimoto.
Several of the participating artists share their comments regarding the face.
I would like to welcome visitors, who now find themselves viewing the exhibition wearing masks, to embrace the opportunity to see this diverse array of faces that are not in masks.
“One day, the human face had looked to me like a landscape. Ever since, I have been depicting faces as if they were landscapes. (Sculpture) The Faust within me.”
“I feel a touch of anxiety when it comes to communication, should someone’s facial expression be hidden by a mask. I believe that an interest in the face essentially signifies an interest in people.”
“The face is like a door, through which various things come and go. Food, air, light, sound, information, feelings, and things that you don’t understand.”
“I depict faces because it is a motif that most reflects personality.
I feel like I am gradually being affirmed when I am looked at.”
A contaminated “Portrait of Japan.”
In the forest near my studio in Yamanashi, a caution sign appears every year when it comes to the fall season. It reads: “Radioactive substances that exceed the radioactive cesium concentration of general foods stipulated by the Food Sanitation Law, have been detected in Fujiyoshida City, Yamanashi Prefecture. For this reason, please refrain from collecting, shipping and ingesting wild mushrooms for the time being.” Ever since moving to Fuji Yoshida, I have been producing self-portraits with the region’s vast woodlands and virgin forests as the theme. However, the nature of these self-portrait works, have changed in wake of the incident at Fukushima in 2011.
At the time, cesium had spread beyond Tokyo and into the virgin forests of Fujiyoshida in Yamanashi. When coming across this caution sign, the eerie green color of the gamma-ray surveyor inside the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and the chemical green color of extraterrestrial life, which I often saw in 90s science fiction movies when I was a boy, had strangely connected with one another in my mind. Ever since, the forest of Fujiyoshida looks to me as if viewed through a green filter. I wonder whether this green powder had also poured on to me who lives there. Until now, “self-portraits” were a means for me to depict the relationship between the forest and myself, yet since this incident, I have been producing green “self-portraits” that reflect contamination by cesium. This is in turn a contaminated “Portrait of Japan.”
“What’s a face to me?
A face is an empty mask. We use it, we carry it, as if it were a ghost, an empty screen, that listens, smells, talks, looks at things, and, although charged with the task of conveying our intimacy, of bouncing reality, as a decoder; still remains inscrutable to ourselves. The face of another, is, also, a space where people (including myself) project what they cannot face about one’s own face/mask/ghost/filter.”
“One early dawn, around 4am, 14 years ago…
I woke up and saw my niece Meghan, sat still facing my small studio.
She was facing in one direction, same level as her height at that time.
She was 4 years old.
There were a group of paintings, small.
I shook her shoulder and called her gentle.
She sat still…muted.
After few minutes she laid down and tears filled her eyes.
I was uncomfortable.
Meghan was never quiet.
But, I would guess…and waited till morning.
The sun rose, about 8 in the morning, I saw Meghan already awake. She laid still and was weeping again.
I opened the windows and bright light came in and she was more confident to open her eyes.
I kept asking her, what was wrong? She never said a word.
My house at that time was an old wooden house. The house was very sensitive with some invisible elements and very strong connection with many spirits. I ignored all the presents and I refused to acknowledge anything.
After bath, Meghan started talking. She asked me to keep all my paintings and send them away. Far, far away..
I knew she saw something not so nice.
I packed her stuff and took her home. I kept asking for some clues because that was the first time Meghan acted that way in my home. She was a frequent visitor and never encountered this kind of situation. She did mention a little, she said a person from my painting called her.
Ever since that day she refused to discuss about that day.
Meghan was Fatina’s niece and my house was her playground when she was small. She liked to stay with us and she was a very happy child. She was talkative and attentive.
One fine day, we had lunch together with her brother. Meghan was 12 years old. We were talking about some spooky stories and tried to scare her brother, Max.
I prompted the question to Meghan about the painting incident. She was nervous but willing to share. She said a person came out from my painting. One of my paintings of faces and it was the red face. An old man, he called her by her name, asking her to play together. He was sitting facing her and kept called her name.
I knew the painting. It was from the series of four and related to the four elements, (fire, water, earth and wind). I painted all four faces with subconscious play. I already knew but just needed to know the details. Meghan said, it was so spooky and she was small (4 yrs old) at that time and couldn’t understand the situation so much. She really thought the old man wanted to play and he knew her name and she felt weird.
I am aware of this so call spirit realm. In my Malay tradition and culture, this kind of situation is a common encounter. It is common for artists to paint faces but using some internal practice to transfer some energy, maybe not many artists would do. I was so much into the quantum and was practicing some of my dad’s ‘east way’ whenever I felt the urge to use it. It is the practice of receiving and transferring energy or waves within a specific space or an area, with my own inner energy. I would randomly sync them together and witness the existence.
The faces were never a coincidence, all are meant to be.”