October 27, 2017

An Artist: Hisashi Tenmyouya

An Artist is a series of posts profiling contemporary artists whose work I find interesting. I am a big fan of contemporary art, particularly from North Asia. I am by no means an expert in the field, but on a personal level these are the artists whose work I have liked the most in recent years.

Hisashi Tenmyouya is a Japanese artist whose work deliberately straddles a line between contemporary popular culture and art history. In 2001 he proposed a new style of art he called 'neo-Nihonga', or 'new Japanese-style', which combined traditional Japanese painting with sharply contrasted modern imagery. This style led to what is probably his most famous painting: two samurai playing football, in a commissioned piece for the 2006 FIFA World Cup (pictured below the cut).

Tenmyouya works extensively with gold leaf in his neo-Nihonga works, laid down onto wooden boards in a traditional Japanese style. He then paints over the top of the leaf in acrylics. There is a huge amount to love in these works: the blending of style, the combination of realist art, manga/anime and graffiti-style imagery, and a sort of deliberately absurd humour caused by the cultural clash that results.

In 2010 he proposed a new art style labelled 'Basara', which further refined the neo-Nihonga works into a clash between samurai and contemporary youth culture. He remains one of Japan's most active and commercially popular contemporary artists. His Mobile Suit Gundam tribute "RX-78-2 Kabuki-mono 2005 Version", for example, sold at auction for US$600,000.

Hisashi Tenmyouya, RX-78-2 Kabuki-mono 2005 Version, 2005.
(Acrylic on wood.)

Hisashi Tenmyouya, Nine Kamakura Samurai, 2001.
(Acrylic on wood.)
Hisashi Tenmyouya, Football, 2004. (Acrylic and gold leaf on wood.)
Hisashi Tenmyouya, Black Helmet in the Shape of a Cloaked Robot, 2016.
(Acrylic, black gesso and gold leaf on wood.)
Hisashi Tenmyouya, Cicada with Vermilion Lacquered Helmet in the
Shape of Three-Horned Beetle
, 2013. (Acrylic on wood.)

Further reading

  • Hisashi Tenmyouya's official website. (link)
  • A gallery of some of Tenmyouya's works at Juxtapoz. (link)
  • A profile of Tenmyouya at Beautiful Decay. (link)
  • A profile of Tenmyouya at the New York Japan Society website. (link)

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