Details
HISASHI TENMYOUYA
(B. 1966)
Japanese Spirit No. 14
signed in Japanese (lower right)
acrylic, gold leaf on wood panel
121.9 x 178.8 cm. (48 x 70 3/8 in.)
Painted in 2002
one seal of the artist
Provenance
Christie's Hong Kong, 25 May 2008, Lot 387
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Literature
Ashiki Hori, Gakken Col., Ltd., Works of Tenmyouya Hisashi "Japanese Spirit", Tokyo, Japan, 2003 (illustrated, pp. 23, 25; exhibition view illustrated, p. 77).
Parco Co. Ltd., Kabuki-mono Tenmyouya Hisashi, Tokyo, Japan, September 2004 (illustrated, pp. 4 2-43 & 44; exhibition view illustrated, p.81).
Kawade Shobo Shinsha Publishers, Tenmyouya Hisashi, Tokyo, Japan, 2006 (illustrated, pp. 36-37; illustrated in black and white, pp. 140 & 154).
Exhibited
Tokyo, Japan, DEPOT Tokyo, Neo Japanese Painting, June 2002.
Saitama, Japan, Kawanabe Kyosai Memorial Museum, Kyosai plus one: Kawanabe Kyosai And Tenmyouya Hisashi, July 2002.
Minneapolis, USA, Walker Art Center, One Planet under a Groove: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art, October 2002.
Altanta, USA, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, One Planet under a Groove: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art, July 2004.
Munich, Germany, Museum Villa Stuck, One Planet under a Groove: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art, July 2004.

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Felix Yip
Felix Yip

Lot Essay

In 2010, an art exhibition named BASARA was brought about by the Japanese contemporary artist Hisashi Tenmyouya firstly in Japan. BASARA, interpreted in Japanese culture as a rebellious behaviour of lower-class aristocracy during the Warring States Period to deny authority in pursuit of an ideal lifestyle by dressing in magnificent and luxurious costumes and acting in free will, did not match their social class identities. Tenmyouya noted in the exhibition catalogue: "Here I would like to use the term "BASARA" to refer to a Japanese family of beauty that is an adopted and developed version of Taro [Okamoto]'s concept of "Jomon'like" art, which is excessive in beauty yet rebellious." The BASARA exhibition fully presented a series of talks between traditional and contemporary Japanese art, spanning from Jomon period, Warring States period, Momoyama period to modern Japan, illuminating the essence of concepts such as "luxury", "breakthrough" and "hegemony" embedded in Japanese aesthetics.

Tenmyouya used the term "luxury" to refer to the visual beauty in design, and the term "hegemony" refers to the emotionally rebellious power against authority and mainstream culture. Japanese Spirit No. 14 (Lot 1360), Football (Lot 1361) and Intertwining Thoughts (Lot 1362) all illustrated this clear and unique art idea established by Tenmyouya upon different perspectives and symbols.

The three paintings are all set in gold-leaf background, reviving the magnificent and luxurious style of Kano School panels in the Momoyama period. It was an era full of tyrants and hegemony stemming from the Warring States period to Momoyama period; castles of Shoguns were decorated with significant symbols representing power and authority throughout the architecture and interior design. The Kano School paintings stem from samurais, in their splendid, magnificent style depicting the heroic spirit of the samurai spirit. They were immensely popular among Bakufu Shogun, among them the brilliant and eye-catching golden panels was highly appreciated by Bakufu Shogun. Kano School golden panel then become the symbol of this warring era. The bright and elaborate golden background adopted by Tenmyouya in his works suggests an attribution to the traditional Japanese aesthetic symbols in form, and speak more for the inner spirit of "hegemony" "rebellion" and "breakthrough" of past era, in accordance with Tenmyouya's consistent art appeal.

In addition to the use of gold leaf, all three paintings are related with the theme of fight. Football (Lot 1361) was chosen to be used as the poster for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, which depicted two samurais in full armor playing football, or viewed in other way, two football players in traditional Japanese combat gear. In this work, Tenmyouya successfully addresses the competitive nature of football and battle, and catches the likeness between the loyalty of samurai to Shogun and the team spirit of football players, both of which are essential to secure a win. Delicate details on the samurai's shirts, shields and O-Yoroi (great armor) are depicted with traditional painting skills. Yet the highlighted jersey numbers diminish the existence of the individual, and emphasize the role of team playing in both battles and games, emphasizing that one is not in it alone. The traditional samurai spirit subtly integrates with the modern life subject in the painting, reminding viewers of the almost forgotten historical significance of samurai culture and traditional painterly styles.

An unknown oddly shaped machine combining traditional and modern elements is depicted in Tenmyouya's Japanese Spirit No. 14 (Lot 1360), driven by a naked samurai. This is a painting of surrealism. Tenmyouya regards the traditional Japanese tattoo as the essence of BASARA culture, which represents not only the courage to bear bodily pains when tattooing, but also the inner strength of will and decision of people. Traditional tattoo design such as tigers, dragons are symbols of seeking to break past barriers, therefore, though the samurai in the painting is naked and without armor protection, he demonstrates fearlessness and heroic spirit largely because of the tattoo he bears on his arm and chest. The machine in the painting has parts resembling human limbs as though an extension of the samurai's body. Tattoos are also found on these "arms" and "thighs". Upon close inspection, these are a replication of the powerful and masculine samurais from Utagawa Kuniyoshi's renowned One Hundred and Eight Heroes of the Popular Suikoden All Told Ukiyo-e of the Edo period. The Japanese labels plastered over the machine are surprisingly graffiti, evident of the similarities between graffiti art and traditional calligraphy skills and thus is adopted by Tenmyouya in the work. The machine also has a "Shimenawa", an elaborately tied rope used for ritual purification in the Shinto religion, the samurai's imperishable energy was bordered in the Shimenawa to fight together against evil. Japanese Spirit No. 14 was in fact the machine of Yamato-Damshii- forwarding without stop, bridging the past and present, and forging ahead into the future.

Different from the outwardly competition presented in Football and Japanese Spirit No. 14, Intertwining Thoughts displays the more internal, mental fight between two figures. Two men holding katana fight against one another, the tattoos on their bodies again assert the idea of "strength of will" and "decision" as emphasized by the artist. According to the Bushido, the katana and samurai are united with the former being the soul of the latter. The tattoo on the lying man's arm are octopi, whose legs extend from the tattoo and forged to the man's body to fight against the attack from the flying bats, which were viewed as evils in Japanese culture. The image of octopi here stem from Katsushika Hokusai's famous work The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife, which depict a young ama diver entwined sexually with a pair of octopi. While the tattoo on the standing man are beautifully blooming chrysanthemums- indicative of the imperial throne of Japan- creating an atmosphere strongly contradictor to the competitive dynamic between the two men. Though there are two bodies presented in the painting, one of the man's face is not visible. Here Tenmyouya does not plan to directly depict a fight between the two individuals, rather, he wants to describe the struggle of good and evil within one person's mind. That is why we can only see the face of the standing men.

Intertwining Thoughts successfully interprets the artist's conceptions of "rebellion" and "breakthrough" to another level - beyond the physical battles, they engage in a psychological fight.
Other interesting details are intentionally added on the frame by the artist, such as the red rope, paper pendants which are usually used as decoration in Shinto rituals, to strengthen the divinity of the work. This painting was displayed in the artist's BASARA exhibition, and was used as the cover for the exhibition catalogue. The work has also won favorable comments and recognition of Japanese contemporary art circle, that it was published as the cover of Bijutsu Techo by Bijutsu Shuppan-sha Co. in Tokyo in 2009.
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