Originally named Tateishi Kouichi, Tiger was born in Fukuoka, Japan in 1941. Early on in his artistic career Pop Art became an influence in works that focused on Japanese society and various topical issues. One of the most important points in understanding contemporary Japanese art and especially Tiger's works, is to gain a sense of 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 country'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-1960s 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 Tigers On Wave (Lot 922) (1992). Colorful and bursting with activity, the narration in this remarkable diptych plays out across the canvas, almost like animation, showing elaborate details throughout the painting. Tiger's fascination with space and time finds expression in an incredibly complex manner. He merges the past and the future by juxtaposing images that represent both.
On the one hand, he pays tribute to the past by depicting an ancient Pagoda, traditional Japanese Pine trees, elderly women in traditional clothing and engraved calligraphy, while, on the other hand, showing a circuit boards, robot-like creatures and barcodes. Images like the movie screening, racing tuna fish, exploding Vulcan, gigantic breaking waves and leaping tigers depict the painting's overall themes of motion, dynamism and energy.
Many of Tateishi's works feature fantasy 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 make his art unique. Many of these traits also reflect Tateishi's great interest in science fiction and imaginary narratives. In Tigers On Wave, he references the early and Middle Jomon period and reinterprets traditional objects of this period from a modern point of view. In his half space-half underwater-world the highly ornamented Jomon battleship is juxtaposed with a barcoded rock tower, yet connected to it through the tiger's morphing body. On a mountain passage a small tiger transforms into an orange pumpkin-witch, while the impressive figure of a transparent, leaping tiger whose stripes recall a spiral spring remains as a powerful protector 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. 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 Tigers On Wave the tigers in the center of the painting are not ordinary images, but important thematic elements and symbols of and for the artist himself.