Tiger Tateishi was born in Fukuoka in 1941. Originally named Tateishi Kouichi, Tiger graduated from the design department of the Musashino Art School and in 1963 won attention with the entry of a large collage in the 15th Yomiuri Independent Exhibition. Pop Art became an influence in works that focused on Japanese society and various topical issues. Tateishi gradually became involved with comics and in 1969 moved to Italy, where he worked in Olivetti's industrial design research center, while showing oil paintings at the Alexander Iolas Gallery and other venues. In 1982, he moved back to Japan, producing comics and illustrations, and from the late 80s onwards poured his great energies into works, featuring images of Japan, such as Mt. Fuji. In 1990, he began writing his name in Kanji, reserving "Tiger" for comics and illustrations. Aside from numerous classic comics and illustrated works for which he is famous, Tateishi held solo shows, issued publications, and established ceramics workshops and in 1994 held a major retrospective at the Tagawa Art Museum, that only heightened interest in and devotion to this artist. Materials documenting Tateishi's career include exhibition catalogs from the "Tiger Tateishi's 1963-1969 Exhibitions in Chikuho, Milan, Tokyo, and !K" (1994), "The Endless Tiger" exhibition at the Tagawa Museum of Art, (1999) and "Tiger in Transformation: Tiger Takeishi in the Maze" exhibition at the O Art Museum (1999).
One of the most important points in understanding contemporary Japanese art and especially Tiger's works, is to gain a sense from the Edo-period culture and the " floating world society (ukiyo-e)." Despite Japan's acceptance of modernism and its ever-inquisitive approach toward it, this "floating world society" is intrinsic to the countrie's culture. The combination of tradition and modernism sets the direction for Japan's contemporary art and Tiger Tateishi's art is a perfect interpretation of this Japanese outlook. From the mid-60s to the 1970s, about a century after the decline of the Edo's Ukiyo-e school of painting, numerous artists were creating modern works that harked back to that school and the "floating world" of the era. These works in turn are also seen as having been influenced by the inception of contemporary styles in New York in the late 1950s and the 60s. The 1960s resurgence of interest in the "floating world" inevitably calls to mind its most prominent event, the Tokyo Olympics of 1964 and the radical face-lift the city was given in preparation, perhaps enhancing the nostalgic sense of things gone by when remembering the Edo period and the floating world culture.
The Edo period produced paintings that depicted multiple scenes in a single work, not only in disregard of any ordered arrangement, but, even more, breaking down formal concepts and sequences of space and time, which, in a way, reflects the typical flow of thought. It also showed objects and spaces with unusual proportions, while still being able to convey the effect of distance psychologically. Many of these elements are reflected in both The Contest of Motion Pictures (Lot 478) and The Jomon Battle (Lot 479). In both works the narration plays out across the canvas, almost like animation, showing fascinating details throughout the canvas. Tigers fascination with space, time and cinema, finds expression in The Contest of Motion Pictures. He merges the past and the future by juxtaposing images that represent both. On the one hand, he depicts Roman battleships, sculptures of ancient warriors and monumental imagery from the movie Ben Hur, while, on the other hand, showing a circuit board with hidden car brands, robots and planes. Images like the horse racing scene as well as the projection of Balla's Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912), which exemplifies the Futurists' insistence that the perceived world is in constant movement, depict the paintings overall themes of motion, dynamism and energy throughout history.
Many of Tateishi's works feature distorted images presented in playful styles, which, along with the sense of flowing time, or even the multi-dimensional combination of past, present, and future, are what create the viewpoint unique to his art. Many of these traits also reflect Tateishi's intense interest in science fiction. In The Jomon Battle he references the sculptures created during the early and Middle Jomon period and reinterprets these traditional objects from a modern point of view. In his half space-half underwater-world these finned, wooden, google-eyed Jomons fight a submarine war. Tiny water knights on horses complete their army, while, like in The Contest of Motion Pictures, Mt. Fuji remains as a silent observer in the back.
Tiger, who had a great appreciation for Dali and for both his scandalous character and his deliriously exaggerated paintings, applies the image of the tiger as a quote from Dali, adding a Chinese Maoist character to it to satirize the era of the US-China standoff. Tateishi loved tigers and even borrowed their name for a long period of time. During the 80s and 90s, Maoism was frequently symbolized by the tiger, to which Tateishi adds his own twist, transforming it into a Zen-inspired Japanese image. In both The Contest of Motion Pictures and The Jomon Battle the tigers in the center of the paintings are not ordinary images, but important thematic elements and symbols of and for the artist himself.