(B. 1976)
The War in an Individual No. 1
acrylic on canvas
185.2 x 227.3 cm. (72 7/8 x 89 1/2 in.)
Painted on 2004
Private Collection, Japan
Tokyo, Japan, Gallery ES, Ryuki Yamamoto, 2003.
Kanagawa, Japan, Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum, The 8th Taro Okamoto Memorial Contemporary Art Award Exhibition, 27 February-10 April 2005.

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Lot Essay

Ryuki Yamamoto's intricate works The War in an Individual No.1 (Lot 1662) and Untitled (Back) (Lot 1663) are emotional landscapes executed with unexpected details of photo realistic proportions. Beneath the fine execution of his works lie deep psychological considerations of the self. With exquisite attention to the details of individual elements of his paintings, Yamamoto leaves little to the imagination. Each represented figure is essentially a self portrait of the artist, purposefully chosen to reflect upon his standing in the greater context of modern society, as if close assessment and investigation of his body leads to the better understanding of societal values and inner workings.

Untitled (Back), perhaps the most emotionally challenging work by Ryuki Yamamoto shows eleven life-size bodies huddled over a dark abyss. The fetal position of Yamamoto exposes the delicate boning of his back; naked and unaware of his surroundings, he is completely vulnerable. The defenseless covering of his ears and presumably his eyes shows his reluctance to embrace or acknowledge his neighbors;, he keeps to himself, which perhaps equates to the world coming to a stand still; in ignoring time passing it is therefore secure. Self reflection for the artist begins at the kneeling and drawing of his naked body before a mirror. Detailing the microscopic hairs along his legs and wrinkled feet perhaps shields him from an emotional trauma. He is not alone in such emotions, as many from cities worldwide but perhaps more prevalently the youth of Japan have undergone similar psychosis, befuddled by contrast in traditional Japanese ceremonies and otaku culture and the onslaught of technological advancement.

In The War in an Individual No.1, the artist borrows compositional and metaphoric elements from Japanese painter Yata Issho's panoramic painting of the Satsuma Rebellion, 1877. The conflict, the last rebellion of the samurai-class against the newly established Meiji government, represented the struggle for traditional proud Japanese warriors to oust the overwhelming permeation of Western ideology. The vast field where hundreds of miniscule Yamamoto's fight one another expressively suggests the tragedy of the Japanese samurai and government officials fighting each other. Parachuting reinforcements fill the air in replacement of the defeated nude Yamamoto's, replicating the defeated samurai of 1877. Each figure, painted with distinctive features of the artist himself contrasts the pale colour wash of the sky and the delicate trees branches, reminiscent of the original Ishho painting. The struggle between the "selves" in the alienated, sparse environment is Yamamoto's voiced internal struggle to find a comfortable position in contemporary society. Lacking clear guidance, the figures blindly grapple one another, losing sight of the objective, should tradition or modern ideals prevail?

Yamamoto's work explores the standoff between the conflicting elements of control and chaos, acceptance and denial, self love and self hate, it is uncertain whether war will be declared or peace achieved. In the seemingly bland landscapes of Yamamoto's works, our collective insecurities and socially unacceptable urges may at least find an outlet in their brutal but poetic descriptions.

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