TETSUYA ISHIDA (Japanese, 1973-2005)
TETSUYA ISHIDA (Japanese, 1973-2005)


TETSUYA ISHIDA (Japanese, 1973-2005)
acrylic on wood panel
103 x 145.6 cm. (40 1/2 x 57 3/8 in.)
Painted in 1998
Private Collection, Asia
Kyuryudo Art Publishing Co., Tetsuya Ishida Posthumous Works, Tokyo, Japan, 2006 (illustrated, p. 35).
Nerima Art Museum, Tetsuya Ishida-Our Self Portraits, Tokyo, Japan, 2008 (illustrated, p. 19).
Tokyo, Japan, Nerima Art Museum, Tetsuya Ishida-Our Self Portraits, 9 November-28 December 2008.
Sale room notice
Please note the correct medium of Lot 49 is acrylic on wood panel.

Brought to you by

Eric Chang
Eric Chang

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

What makes artists unique is their innate sensibilities to the events and circumstances that surround them. When most of the people have grown apathetic towards contradiction, oppression, and injustice in their lives, the sensibilities of the artists enable them to pierce deeper into the fundamental truth. Although art never claim to be able to directly solve our problems, outstanding works can rouse the petrified souls of the viewers and help them regain the natural sensitivity, so that they may feel and release the myriads of emotions that life should offer.

Tetsuya Ishida was born in the Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan in 1973. Tragically, he was killed in a train accident in 2005. Similar to the Japanese people's sentimental connection to the cherry blossom, his life is also brief yet splendid. The more splendid it was, the more regrettable the loss is. During the 31 years of his life, he witnessed the economic miracle in post-war Japan and the burst of the economic bubble in the 90s. High pressure at workplace, long working hours, discriminatory social hierarchy and institution were the typical phenomena in the Japanese society. The young Tetsuya Ishida used his razor-sharp sensibilities, exquisite brushwork, surrealistic world-view, and an empathetic heart to reveal the truth about the conditions of the contemporary Japanese people. Leaving behind 100 works, majority of the protagonists are young people, students, or white-collar salaryman. Their bodies are inevitably restrained by various objects. At times, they are even absorbed and became parts of the transportation vehicles, machines, and household items - these are metaphors for their fate in servitude and the inability to determine their own destiny.

Not only are the Japanese people burdened with grave social problems, they also have to deal with the antagonistic relationship between humans and nature. Located in an active earthquake zone, Japanese people are living under the constant threat of natural disaster. As a result, they intimately feel the frailty of life and have subsequently developed a deep-seated sense of sorrow. The thriving entertainment industry in Japan is a necessary consequence: generation after generation of idols, video games, manga and anime are produced to supply its citizens with a channel to release their tragic world-view, solace for the spirit, and a sense of achievement. The more celebratory this constructed entertainment world is, the more frustrating and embarrassing real life proves to be; the more people indulge in the blissfulness of the surreal world, the more unwilling they are to face the deficiency in the real life, and they are helpless to change the real world in which they are situated. The constructed worlds of Tetsuya Ishida's art are surrealistic, but they are oftentimes harrowing scenes. They challenge the preconceived notions and faulty reasoning that people have regarding the everyday life - the truth is conveyed through these surreal metaphors.

This early work of Tetsuya Ishida, Untitled (Lot 49), depicts a scene of a disastrously flooded street. Two drowning young men can be seen shouting for help in panic. Yet, the female customer service representative impeccably dressed regards the situation nonchalantly. Her bended forearm is perplexing: it is hard to tell whether it is an apathetic shrug or a gesture of astonishment that one of the youths has escaped from her arms. The youths are clutching the compasses for dear life as if they are swimming boards - these are the only floatation devices that can save their lives. Through these two youths who have a striking resemblance to Tetsuya Ishida, the artist is making a statement about the connection and the universality between the society and the individual. They symbolise the demographics in Japanese society who were born in the rural areas, left their home towns and ventured to the big cities. The female customer service representative represents the constraints in society, unfeeling attitude and indifference. As this social problem is becoming a global phenomenon today, this works has a universality that resonates with us like an elegy of our time.

The Buddha once said, "The mind determines the state of being". The environment is often transformed into a different reality as one's mind subjectively changes. The watery world in Untitled is also a mirror of self-reflection in Tetsuya Ishida's mind. The scene in the painting is deceptively objective - the buildings on the left and right sides produce an interesting psychological effect in conjunction with the placement of the characters. The buildings form a pair insurmountable walls that complete a classical linear perspective. The vanishing point falls on another building in the distance. Combined with the treacherous flood that impedes any movement, the characters in the picture are confined in an ominous jail. Other figures are scattered around the painting - they separate themselves from the pack, display no expressions, abhor communication, and cower in a corner. The scene compels the viewers to make the association with the sociological phenomenon of acute social withdrawal hikikomori. It is also evocative of the New Objectivity painter George Grosz and George Tooker's works that depict an impassive society (Fig. 1 & 2).

Although the paintings of Tetsuya Ishida convey the feeling of melancholy and loneliness, they are the artist's way to subtly express his sympathy and concern. He once said, "Pain, misery, tragedy, distress, and loneliness of other human beings are the emotions that I can intensely feel. In my own way, I digest them and represent them again." The sorrowful characters who are lost in an era of indifference and detachment provoke the viewers to reflect on the society and their current states of beings. Tetsuya Ishida believed that every single brushstroke on the canvas reveal different issues hidden in our society, and salvation is attained, little by little, through his painting.

More from Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art (Evening Sale)

View All
View All