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Happy Zodiac

Happy Zodiac
signed with artist’s signature, signed in Japanese and dated ‘2011’ (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas (triptych)
overall: 182.5 x 366 cm. (71 1/8 x 144 1/8 in.)
each: 182.5 x 122 cm. (71 1/8 x 48 in.) (3)
Painted in 2011
Joshua Liner Gallery, New York, USA
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Washington DC, USA, American University Museum, Solo Exhibition of Tomokazu Matsuyama “Thousand Regards”, April - May 2012.

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Lot Essay

Amongst artists who combine Eastern and Western aesthetics, Tomokazu Matsuyama can be considered as the forerunner in this school of expression. Like many Japanese artists with unorthodox practices, Matsuyama had a diverse upbringing — he spent his childhood between Tokyo, Japan and California, United States. His multicultural experience is thoroughly demonstrated in his works. The artist has just debuted his first solo exhibition "Accountable Nature" at Long Museum, Shanghai earlier this year. The exhibition reflects his versatile and diverse artistic language, further attesting his established status in the history of art.

In Happy Zodiac, Matsuyama infused the traditional Japanese palette with fluorescent colours. With these vibrant hues, the artist rendered a classic subject matter that is shared between both Japanese samurai culture and American western culture — horse and rider. Such treatment brings contemporary and traditional cultures together in a violent clash. The valiant knights gallop across the open horizon while adorable animals scatter around the night sky. The brilliant use of colours accentuates the air of childhood whimsy that permeates this work. On one hand, Eastern visual vocabularies such as Japanese Ukiyo-e technique, scenes of falling snow and samurai are unmistakably featured here. On the other hand, Western elements such as street art, abstraction expressionism, the use of flat colour planes and rainbow psychedelic palette also have prominent roles in the composition. Lavishly decorative and conceptually rich, this work deftly balances between these polar opposites. The aesthetic of this amalgamation is highly distinctive.Tomokazu Matsuyama insightfully employed bicultural elements in this work in order to fully realise a subject matter that is both Eastern and Western in nature. Utilising his own complex upbringing as a point of departure, this work is both a retrospective and a response to globalisation and its effects on cultural identity.

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