TETSUYA ISHIDA (1973 - 2005)
TETSUYA ISHIDA (1973 - 2005)
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TETSUYA ISHIDA (1973 - 2005)

Untitled

Details
TETSUYA ISHIDA (1973 - 2005)
Untitled
oil on canvas
112 x 162.3 cm. (44 1⁄8 x 63 7⁄8 in.)
Painted in 2001
Provenance
Private Collection, Asia
Christie’s Hong Kong, 22 November 2014, lot 42
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Literature
Kyuryudo Art Publishing Co., Tetsuya Ishida Posthumous Works, Tokyo, 2006 (illustrated, p. 60).
Tetsuya Ishida: Complete, Kyuryudo Art Publishing Co., Tokyo, Japan, 2010 (Illustrated, plate 115, p. 115).

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Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡) Head of Evening Sale

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Lot Essay

Tetsuya Ishida only painted approximately around 200 paintings during his lifetime. Untitled is the only Ishida work available among all international auction houses this fall. Looking at the complete oeuvre from Ishida’s ten-year long career, Untitled can be considered an elegy, which most succinctly describes social and workplace stratification in Japan like a surrealist, Kafkaesque scene. Ishida only created 4 works with an office setting but introduced variations in theme, composition, or content. Compared with the other 3 works, Untitled is the largest of all which features 2 protagonists with delicate details that reveal the great care involved in the making of this painting.

Tetsuya Ishida lived through the ‘lost decade’ of economic collapse in Japan in the 1990s. A number of societal problems such as long working hours in a high-pressure environment, alienation, and a rigid social class system, arose during this bleak and uneasy atmosphere and typified Japan’s working class. Despite the repressiveness of this environment, young Ishida did not become dull or withdrawn; instead, with a sensitive touch, he produced a series of surreal compositions in a finely detailed, realistic manner and examined this phenomenon with a critical yet sympathetic eye in order to reveal the fragility of humanity behind the facade of societal expectations.

Completed in 2001, a mature period of the artist, by then Ishida had already developed his style but he still tirelessly explored his personal aesthetics as shown in Untitled. The work is full of details from modern office setting mixed with blue-collar labour life: stainless steel shelves, office table, safety harness, anchor screw, cement truck. One protagonist opens his eyes while the other shuts; the vacant look in their eyes expresses a sense of helplessness of someone who is trapped in a dilemma. At a glance they look like being trapped in office tables and chair. At a closer look the architectural building materials are anchoring them into work. It echoes with Ishida’s reflection on the state of life and existence in modern work culture and his critique on the isolation and hardships faced by workers. Ishida did not portray the background like most of his other works, but he depicted endless grassy hills of different shades of green, which seem to provide a breath of fresh air to the laborers and also seem to be an infinite extension of Ishida’s surreal imagination.

The 2015 Venice Biennale took as its theme “All the World’s Futures,” through which curator Okwui Enwezor hoped to explore societal changes in the wake of the industrial revolution and the resulting anxieties that have been felt in different eras. Works by Ishida were entered and shown at the Biennale in its main exhibition hall, thus realizing his hope that artists could push viewers to reflect on the surroundings in which they live: “I believe my self-portrait paintings have the function of making the viewer examine our contemporary world, society, and values.” With an intense visual language that cannot be ignored, Untitled exposes the more repressive aspects of our living environment, attempted to save the world “one brushstroke at a time”.

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