TETSUYA ISHIDA (1973-2005)
oil on canvas
112 x 162.3 cm. (44 7/8 x 63 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2001
Private Collection, Asia
Kyuryudo Art Publishing Co., Tetsuya Ishida Posthumous Works, Tokyo, Japan, 2006 (illustrated, p. 60).

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Lot Essay

"I am strongly drawn to saint-like artists. The people who truly believe that the world is saved a little with each brush stroke." - Tetsuya Ishida

Tetsuya Ishida was born in Yaizu, Shizuoka, Japan in 1973, and passed away in a railroad crossing accident in Tokyo in 2005. A short oeuvre spanning a decade, he left behind around 180 extraordinary works. His exquisite realism techniques rendered his world of surreal fantasy and the poignant melodies, established him as one of the key painters of his generations in Japanese contemporary art.

The works of Tetsuya Ishida voiced the claustrophobic individual entwined in the web of society. His intricate paintings imagine scenes from a melancholic, technically adroit, but emotionally deprived world in the mid-late 20th Century. Psychological despair of bewildered youths is veiled in Ishida's quotidian decors with protagonist metamorphosed into humanoid figures - part-animal, part-machine at times. Ishida's social recitation sets him apart from the dominating manga-inspired art in Japan.
He might paint in mock resemblance of himself, but notion remained suppressed to heighten the hushed tragedy of psychological anguish.

In Work (Lot 42), Ishida crystallised a disquieting blend of wraithlike landscapes with melancholy palettes to criticise the social structure of Japan. Two men are placed inside a building under construction, surrounded by office desks settings with mountains as background. Their business attires suggest they are white collars workers. The murky hues overcast the ambiance of a construction site, to weigh down the solemnity of the emotional encumbrance and complication Ishida holds. The excessive neatness of finely layered brushstrokes parades his intense absorption in painting. A ritualistic slant depicts features of tempera paints. The thin semi-opaque paint strokes with copious layers of colours generate an abysmal colour saturation of the whole painting. This meticulous stacking of paint strokes enhances the face to appear three-dimensional, triggering an illusion of depth.

Ishida apprehends the sentiments of Japan in economic recession throughout1990s. Japanese post-war economic miracle takes place between 1960s and 1980s. Follow by the Lost Decade in 1990s with popping of the economic bubble. Born in 1970s, Ishida experiences the booming Japanese economy as a child and came of age as an artist in the midst of Japan's recession in late 20th Century. His narrative style resonates deeply from the "Neue Sachlichkeit" (New Objectivity) of George Grosz's. The growing criticism of the social hardships that followed the First World War is manifested in Grosz's penetrating Street Scene (Fig. 1). Work is painted when unemployment in Japan reached its high level. There is an increasing rejection of valuing group harmony over individual opinion, indicating a tendency towards individualism and libertarianism. Profound social fears are often the result of stigmatisation by a high-pressure work culture, creating a phenomenon of hikikomori (withdrawn), as seen in the two secluded characters in the same room . While hard work is respected as the keystone of Japan's post-war economic miracle, self-sacrifice spirit puts the benefit of the group above the individual. Ishida wishes to arouse viewer's reflection on entrapment of self within the regimented life.
The composition embodies the interlocking relationship between society and people. The incomplete building is a symbol of society that signifies the utopia of Capitalism, where endless production and consumption transpire. The safety buckle alludes to the safety net of society; on the other hand, it embodies the inescapable social system. The tightly woven infrastructure is to be condemned for breeding contemporary loss of mobility and space has upshot a physical and mental traffic of individuals. Two cloned characters imply the objectification of human in society that is easily replaceable. Exasperating helpless scenario is painted in eerie solitude. The sober gaze becomes the core expressionism, as the metamorphosed characters cry with subdued expression of the loss of purpose and self in exchange for salary, unveiling existential anxiety. Closed eyes of front character, however, suggest the quest for inner serenity and contemplation. Perspective pointing to the road in upper right corner where the brightest part of painting is, too, proposes faith for future.
"At first, it was a self-portrait. I tried to make myself-my weak self, my pitiful self, my anxious self-into a joke or something funny that could be laughed at." Ishida says, "It was sometimes seen as a parody or satire referring to contemporary people. As I continued to think about this, I expanded it to include consumers, city-dwellers, workers, and the Japanese people." Ishida therapeutically conveys his unusual gift of encapsulating hopelessness, suffocation, and emotional segregation for his era, through his bizarre yet arresting paintings.

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