Tomokazu Matsuyama blends elements of the many different life experiences he has had into his work. Pulling from a range of sources, including art history, fashion magazines, and Japanese and American pop culture, he describes his aesthetic voice as a type of re-mixing: blending and borrowing from a range of different visual and cultural sources. His goal is to create images that speak vividly to the diversity of our time.
This piece, which debuted in 2021 in the exhibition Realms of Refuge at Kavi Gupta, is an example of the type of tension Matsuyama creates between harmony and dissonance, or between the comfort a viewer might feel with visual elements that are recognizable, and the discomfort that emerges from aspects of the image that seem foreign. The curved canvas relates to the history of Western Minimalism, and also to the history of shaped Japanese tea platters. Meanwhile, the figures are borrowed from fashion magazines; the clothing is reminiscent of historic Japanese garments; the backgrounds are evocative of Shogun-era screens and panels; and elements such as a junkyard tire and a bag of potato chips situate the narrative starkly in the present age.
The images elegantly express what Matsuyama refers to as “the struggle of reckoning the familiar local with the familiar global.”
"A lot of people ask whether my painting is portraying my personal history," Matsuyama says. "It is in a way because I’m referencing my past. But at the same time I want to keep that distant. I blend that diversity in each piece so everyone can feel comfortable, and feel uncomfortable."