oil on canvas
130.5 x 190.3 cm. (51 1/4 x 75 in.)
Painted in 2001
Christie's Hong Kong, November 26, 2006, Lot 496
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
Kyuryudo Art Publishing Co., Tetsuya Ishida Posthumous Works, Tokyo, Japan, 2006, p. 48. (illustrated)

Lot Essay

Tetsuya Ishida observes life by looking into youths and their conditions of life in response to society and technology's expectation upon them.

The relationship between economy and social pathology rumbled its immediate environment of life cycle, gender and social class, which increased a sense of isolation and disorientation of individuals. Afraid by the endless possibilities and conformity forced by the ever-advancing society however much rooted in centuries of tradition, the images of Tetsuya Ishida address the claustrophobic individual entangled in the web of society.

Having passed away at the young age of 31, the regression of Tetusya Ishida's psychological despair is veiled in the quotidian sceneries with the protagonist metamorphosed in to machinery, developing an awareness of ambiguity towards one's meaning in society at large and a sense of hopelessness towards the future. Precarious and complex in imaginary baggage, Ishida's paintings are a visual statement to crisis of modern consciousness. Confronting his inner psyche to reflect such contemporary tragedy, the overall atmosphere of his oeuvre is gloomed further with his painstaking rendering that unveil greater intensity of his depressive nature. The excessive orderliness of finely layered brushstrokes exhibits Ishida's intense mental absorption in painting. Almost in a ritualistic manner, the artist's persistent impulses are presented through his remarkable handling of the oil paint in depicting features of tempera paints. The thin semi-opaque paint strokes with numerous layered colors generate a deep color saturation of the painting as a whole. This meticulous stacking of obsessive paint stokes enhances the form of the face to appear three-dimensional, triggering an illusion of depth for the viewer. Implementing Georges-Pierre Seurat's technical method of pointillism, Ishida too condenses the stacked particles of colors to composite form, silently conjuring an overall ambiance of the French Romanticism movement, moreover an ambiance that is devotedly memorable to Black Romanticism. A term, coined from the aesthetics of Eugene Delacroix, notably owing to The death of Sradanapalus, c. 1827. An orgiastic landscape of death is embellished in startling beauty by his virtuoso in handling light and dark elements. The powerful emotional outburst of this morbid scene is glorified into heroism, where death was a legendary act of patriotism by the Assyrian King on the hearing of enemy's attacks. Akin to this manner, Ishida paints the ascetic of his life in a style that stimulates admiration from the viewer bestowing a revitalized spirituality towards death.

The desolate landscape in Untitled (Lot 511) articulates Ishida's oppressive anxiety as the painting holds a strange balance between dream and realism, moreover his endeavor to portray a psychological reality. At first, the artist's brilliance in painting technique stimulates a misleading semblance of a real quotidian world but with inspection of pictorial details, tell us otherwise, describing a secondary reality of surreal world that defy an inevitable nature of death. The protagonist sits on a tomb with his back against the audience. With a fleeting look, the scenery occupies the canvas as a seemingly banal setting of an individual relaxing in his room, sitting on top of his bed with a headphone that connects to a large stereo. The impression is then replaced with disquieting corrections as bed becomes a tomb, a stereo becomes a gravestone. The viewer is left looking sympathetically at the back of the comfortably clothed protagonist, who appears deep in thought. The simplicity and blandness in his clothing becomes an emblem of his disposed self, where individualistic expression has already diminished, or furthermore is an indication of his preparation and inkling towards death. An unidentifiable body is hidden under the tomb in an uncanny posture. It lays, flat on stomach as if it has been discarded as a worthless product.

Ishida attempts to open spaces of hope and strives to remind himself of the nature of human existence by painting trees and grass growing from the wooden floor. However, his misery is so severe that it penetrates through his artistic execution as the overall painting is suffused with claustrophobic melancholy, lurking anxiety through its dimmed color palette of grey counterbalanced with green, resulting a paradoxical unbalance of color comfort, hence conjuring a visual nausea from the viewer. The silent immobility of the train placed within the grey-white ominous vacuum outside the window waits for the protagonist's closure with life. The only possible sound detected through Ishida's muted canvas is possibly of a requiem, a prayer used in services after a burial or in remembrance for the salvation of the dead. Ishida cannily instructs emblems of departure through items he places in his canvas, and of course, all in relevance to the noteworthy insertion of a train. Bag pack, symbolic of the individual's preparation, presumably indicates 'packing' and organizing his life, to perhaps start a new journey towards a final everlasting place. The video tape sitting on top of the chair embody the recording of the past, allowing the protagonist to reflect on his personal trajectory to emotionally organize and prepare for the departure of his soul.

Victimized by consumerism and modernity, Ishida transforms his body into machinery in means to convey his body as a vessel of empty existence in Supermarket (Lot 869). Tragically mutated, the arms become an automatic belt used in supermarkets to expedite the process in counters. Horizontally industrious arms are weighed in heavy colors of grey, rusted with brown patches as if it was overworked in repetition. The packaged foods are ornamented in unappetizing hues of brown and orange. The melancholy palette overcasts the ambiance of an industrialized factory; here, the oeuvre is not in silence like Untitled but more at work, where the circulating motors can be heard with the beeping sounds of the price detector. The sober gaze becomes the core expressionism, as the metamorphosized protagonist cry with muted expression of the loss of purpose and self, unveiling the existential anxiety of the artist.

The damaged life and existence is blamed towards the rapid economic growth and technological production of Japan. Ishida observes life by looking into youths and their conditions of life in response to society and technology's expectation upon them. The solitude and identity crisis are expressed poignantly through his emblematic scenarios, heavily imbued with skepticism of an excess culture that has reinforced an entrapment of self and even of the city structure. The tightly woven infrastructure is also to be condemned for breeding contemporary symptoms of claustrophobia, where loss of mobility and space has upshot a physical and mental traffic of individuals. The seclusion individuals felt developed collectively with technology, as humans rarely communicated or found deeper connections with each other. Ishida consents to this social fact and therapeutically communicates it through his paintings. This perhaps may be a symptom of the artist's already socially inept character dangerously infected by modernity, which has consequently leaded to end his life. Tetsuya Ishida passed away after being hit by a train, leaving ambiguous traces of the episode, questionable as an accident or a suicide. Perplexingly coincidental, Untitled may bear momentous implications as Ishida's fantasy about his own death.

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