(Born in 1964)
signed and dated 'Hiroyuki Matsuura; 2007' in English (on reverse)
acrylic on canvas triptych
190 x 129.5 cm. (74 3/4 x 51 in.) x 3 pieces
Painted in 2007

Lot Essay

The digital era created a symbiotic relationship between animated characters and the youth of today's generation. From influencing what we read and the screen we read it on to the way people dress, our lives have nearly become interchangeable with a digital version. Many of Matsuura's works combine historical Japanese figures such as geishas and samurais with digital imagery, resulting in a painting that almost anyone can befriend. Where reality disappoints, the digital realm and its characters provide solace, role-models and companionship, allowing humans to delve deeply into a fantastical universe. Hiroyuki Matsuura's work visually borders design and art that can be attributed to his long service in the graphic design industry, but his works should not be interpreted merely on a superficial level. Rather his compositions should be considered for its subtle commentary on the inability of this generation to distinguish themselves from a digital world.

The flat composition of Untitled reminds the viewer that comic imagery originated in a two-dimensional, print form. Anime, manga and even images we see today of historic figures are not physically present in our reality but in our minds and on paper. We began by accepting them as figures of a digital universe yet day by day the boundary between superheroes and humans is dissolving. There are numerous people who find pleasure in taking on personas of surreal characters, who identify with others and create a factitious community. With this knowledge in mind, the boy in Untitled could in fact, be a depiction of a young Japanese boy in his alternative guise. Matsuura intentionally remarks on how the digital age impressed his childhood in his works. Here the dark black outline, smooth application of saturated colours and magnified perspective shows a combined style of graphic arts and comics. The gentle and precise application of silver-leaf as the backdrop emphasizes both the modernity of his subject and pays tribute to a traditional craft. Because the figure in Untitled is not shown in his entirety, the viewer in essence infiltrates his physical space. In this close proximity, we are invited to create a contextual narrative that extends beyond the four corners of the canvas. The maiden of Butterfly Effect holds a similar effect over the viewer. Provocatively bent at an angle, she holds a device at her side but for what purpose? The long blonde hair and vinyl outfit can without fail render an image of a superhero in the viewer's mind yet this styled figure is so widespread on the streets of Japan. We are reminded by the selective cropping of the figure and outward sprayed rays that the viewer is given full rein of his or her own imagination.

The Four Windy Bunny toys is three-dimensional evidence that these characters are no longer a figment of our imagination. At this instant, that fabricated world can be fully incorporated into our lives in this era of animation. Small, affable and cute these anthropomorphized rabbits are again painted with highly reflective acrylic paints, emphasizing that they are product of a futuristic process. Their size and shape is similar to that of a young child and is suggestive that they may one day replace the place of a child. Every doll has the same wide-eyed look of fascination. Their lack of expression is mechanical and identical throughout, as if mass manufactured as anime books and magazines are.

Although anime style drawings are practiced by many different artists, Matsuura's works are distinctive in his technique and overall visual representation. Most distinctive is the artist's optically deluding, stylized gradation of color. Typically seen in animation, this technique essentially is a layering of different hues of the same color in different shapes and results in a visually stimulating array of colours. The blocks of colour are so unmistakably definite that we are reminded of neat lines of coloured pixels that crawl across our computer screen.


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