In Pray (Lot 503) we are instantaneously struck by the stunned states of Korehiko Hino's subjects; their bewildered eyes and tensely bent poses reflect the claustrophobic anxiety of Japanese society's explosion of technology and information. The constant bombardment of surprising discoveries from computers and cellphones to genetic manipulation, suggest that it is impossible for man to catch up with the present, much less to predict the future. The enormous daily pressures of modern life and the possibility of extending life through science have taken us beyond our once unsophisticated understanding and appreciation of life and profoundly shaken the very foundation of our definition of "reality". Through Hino's painting, viewers absorb the confounded emotion and feel blinded by the intense competitions, rapid developments, and boundless possibilities of the future.
The smooth statuesque bodies with skin of creamy and lively flesh tones starkly contrast the reflectively flat blue background. Their bodies, although proportional, show slight disfiguration with the jagged protruding ribs and rounded bellies; an awkwardness one finds in budding children, who transfixed on social beckoning and cool, are entirely unaware of their physical growth. This strange amalgamation of messages effectively flanks the viewer between illusion, imagination and reality. While transfixed upon the still bodies in arrangements recognizable from ancient historical texts and images that we have never witnessed, we are likewise confronted with a profoundly and personally recognizable emotion and sense of loss depicted. In composition, Hino devotes his concentration to the central figures and their gestures, and further emphasizes through its simplistic and seemingly non-existent milieu, a greater context beyond the four sides of this canvas.
Each expression of Hino's subjects renders them primitive like bewildered animals, perhaps a sign of further isolation from society as one speeds through a technological revolution and reverts to simpler ancient times where nudity was accepted and considered beautiful, as rendered in ancient Greek and Roman antiquities. Stoically standing, the two near identical men resemble depictions of attic red vases of ancient Greece, where physical features were depicted with a feminine elegance (fig 1). Likewise, the softly tilted legs and slender figures reflect a youthful vigor and pre-adolescence similar to the Kouros sculptures of Archaic Greece (of approximately 500 B.C., fig 2). Standing with one leg forward, one behind and the two arms flanking the side, freestanding kouros sculpture was used as a votive offering, a notion reflected by the exposed, bare figurines of Pray. Depicting them in this unclothed and susceptible state of ancient references, Hino despite being a contemporary artist, adeptly yet subtly comments on how society either subconsciously wishes to subsist with mere bare necessities or how the dense saturation of technology renders it vulnerable to attack from all sides. It is unclear as to how long the two figures in Pray may have been standing at such assiduous attention, but in their frozen state, they seem incapable to come undone.
Through the title, Hino references the traditional gesture of prayer used by pagans, Western and Eastern religions in instances of enlightenments, pleading or restoration of faith; a believer also prays for the gods to take control and remedy a situation. This deeply spiritual and philosophical aura cannot escape the painting despite its playful and slightly humorous portrayal. In the manner one reads ancient scriptures and interprets pictographs, Pray lures the viewer's attention, inviting each and every viewer to probe beyond the mere physical, to be critical and wary of his or her actions. Straddling a classical realist depiction and the subject's own subjective fabrications Hino's distinctive painting technique allows him to pose deep questions about personal identity and cultural awareness with concerns to technological innovations within Japan.