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(B. 1977)
ayame mo shiranu yama
signed 'ai' in English; dated '2009' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas, laid pillow foam and board
31.5 x 111 x 5.5 cm. (12 3/8 x 43 3/4 x 2 1/8 in.)
Executed in 2009
Private Collection, Japan
Shanghai Fine Arts Publishing House, The Leading Contemporary Art Magazine in China, No.5, Shanghai, China, 2009 (illustrated, unpaged).

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Lot Essay

The art of Ai Yamaguchi is unique among contemporary Japanese artists. Originality, cultural specificity and a highly individualistic style categorize her works both in the use of materials and the genesis of concepts and themes. Trained in textile design when studying fine arts in the university, Yamaguchi is especially sensitive to the texture and expressiveness of fabric. In her earliest works, she employed hand-woven fabric to representation of creative ideas, but eventually found that the mere manipulation of fabric inadequate to express her increasingly complicated stories and scenes. It was then that she started to paint on the fabrics that she weaved. In a style that bears a vestige of ukiyoe, a genre of woodblock prints from the Edo period, she depicts the lives of a group of courtesans in the "Touge no Chaya" (the Brothel of the Mountain Pass). In her imagination the Touge no Chaya is a space where nine girls lived and learnt music and performance art. Yamaguchi names each of them, visualized them in a series of works, granting them each colorful and distinctive characters. The demeanors, for example, of the mischievous girl, the grumpy one, the jester or the caring sister embody a story as complete as a picture book or even a drama. Bright in originality, each work is richly and delicately detailed. Ayame Mo Shiranu Yama (Lot 1521), is one example from the series, offering a narrative of the indolent lives of these girls. The graceful and restrained manner with which the figures and objects are painted is of an Edo savor; the artist, through researching the customs of the Edo era, paints with subtlety the lively, realistic scene of her fictional world, while also displaying Yamaguchi's virtuosity in incorporating and weaving textiles. The canvas is trimmed in proportion to the gesture of the figures, its edge wrapped into the shape of a swollen sphere, heightening the ordinary, restful mood of the work. In its aesthetic expression, the lines shape the child-like yet gaudy physique of the girls, and the simple but brilliant colors are coated onto the canvas, engendering a form of representation close to contemporary Japanese animation art. Yamaguchi meticulously studied the oeuvre of Katsushika Hokusai, the eminent ukiyoe painter, which further informs the Japanese folk "flat form" of her art, making her work is an individualistic reinterpretation of the "super-flat" style that prevails in contemporary Japanese art world. On the canvas weaved by the own fair hand of the artist, Yamaguchi finely designs and portrays the ornament of the girls' kimono. By integrating the art of painting and the Japanese's exquisite fabric patterns, the two art forms are perfectly synthesized, through which the sophistication of the artwork is escalated.

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