(Born in 1966)
Japanese Spirit No. 14
signed 'Hisashi Tenmyouya' in Japanese (lower right)
acrylic, gold leaf on wood
128 x 185.4 cm. (50 x 72 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2002
one seal of the artist

Lot Essay

Mobile suits were constructed in humanoid forms with the cockpit located in the abdomen and sometimes located on the head or the chest. The superior power that clothed the pilots resembles a shield of a samurai's O-Yoroi, the 'great armor' known as the most outstanding Japanese armor. Two samurais playing Football (Lot 388) in battle gear was created for the 2006 poster for FIFA world cup. Consciously dressing the two players in common stereotype of samurais, his paintings address a wider spectrum of audience, simultaneously inserting a playful analogy with the competitive nature of football game akin to a battle, as regards to how a samurai's committed clan is analogous to the energy of the football players' teamwork. Solidarity and loyalty this two group posse is where their strength lies in succeeding a victory. This absurdly amusing anachronism displays the artist's heavy emphasis on the notion of machismo and combats. The characteristic of machismo is excessively decorated in all of his oeuvres. Although he persistently adheres to the various traditional conceptions by employing man-made machinery as weapons, he constantly makes reference to technological modernity. Tenmyouya utilizes weapons to intensify the machismo of the subjects by implanting symbolic yet durable shelter for humans; Gundam for the pilot, O-Yoroi,for the football players and the ambiguous war contrivance for the samurai. Taking a form of a shell, it protects and shields the fragile skin of humans.

In Japanese Spirit No. 14 (Lot 387), a naked samurai sitting on a machine stem from Tenmyouya's sublime yet comforting vision of the past and present, overall displaying a sense of futuristic surrealism. The samurai is fearlessly unclothed, ready to drive its cyborg machine to victory. Despite the vulnerability that bare skin regularly portrays, Tenmyouya's samurai seem intrepid and indestructible. On his machine embellished with Shinto religion's 'shimenawa', an enclosing rope used for ritual purification, the samurai's imperishable energy is bordered by shimenawa to ward against evil. The samurai's code of conduct 'Bushido' instructs that 'katana' is a weapon that is indistinguishable with the samurai, hence having the equivalence to a samurai's soul. Like so, the samurai in this oeuvre is in one with the ferocious mechanism. Their comparable physique, both with their body and arms facing straight forward, they are equally etched with tattoos, which successfully undercuts the savagery of the machine. The graffiti appear as a tag, in means of distinguishing, embedding to the significance of tattoos. Tenmyouya's articulate awareness of the likeness in the philosophy and practice between traditional calligraphy and graffiti, he manages to 'tag' the machine to bestow a singular identity and ownership.

Graffiti has become a visual slang, aesthetically yet literally distinguishing complex street culture. In this way, Tenmyouya also encompass rebellion and yet the vandalism/violence that graffiti stands for in the norm.

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