(Born in 1973)
Hot Spring
oil on canvas
160.5 x 129 cm. (63 1/4 x 50 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2007

Lot Essay

Ryoji Suzuki's tasteful awareness of the materials he employs is highly evident in his ability to control the tonal gradient and his use of texture. Although Suzuki renders the flesh of his figures with great realism the figures themselves are mysteriously amphibian looking. His figures straddle reality and fairy tales and are a product of Suzuki's psychological struggles. Suzuki is an extremely autobiographical painter who approaches painting in a way to portray his immediate feelings and cravings. The artist exploits the range of colors according to his psychological state; a process which he notes is an entirely unconscious decision. Aware that it is a manifestation of his subconscious, the viewer is able to dissect every element of his painting and attempts to relate it to childhood legends and the audience's personal experiences.

Offering a glimpse of a very private bathing moment and an unmistakable Japanese tradition, through Fountain (Lot 1151) and Hot Spring (Lot 1150), Suzuki exposes his subjects to a candid vulnerability, perhaps a reflection of his own, heightened by both characters' nakedness. The exposure reels in viewers who instantly feel a genuine concern and curiosity towards the bathers' vacant stare. Fountain portrays a young girl, soaked in a traditional Japanese square bath tub within the walls of her own home. She does not tell us how she feels but solicits us to examine her psychological response to being exposed to the outside world leaving the viewer perplexed on whether she is happy, sad, or even frightened. Hot Spring instead reveals the contrasting experience of being in a public bath; with a towel gently placed on his head, as is customary to Japanese tradition, the boy comfortably sits in the water with his legs spread, looking straight into the audience's eyes. The bright background mirrors his unguarded emotional state, just as the dark setting reflects concealed one of the girl bather in Fountain. The two canvases are complementary to one another when put contraposition: light and dark, male and female, public and private. However, the beady eyes in both works undoubtedly correspond, and as Suzuki states that people who have similar interests have similar appearances, it is not surprising that this is so. Irrespective of the slight narrative differences, all the eyes are clear and round, outlined with a simple circular contour.

The surreal quality of Suzuki's brushwork and compositions points towards a precisely fabricated world yet we are reminded by the artist that these paintings do not take shape from careful composition and thought but are a manifestation of Suzuki's smooth streaming subconscious from one canvas to another.

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