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The Artist

Tomokazu Matsuyama

1976, Japan

Painter

Influenced by an upbringing in Japan and America, the artist’s large panels merge elements of both Eastern and Western culture to a global canvas of intricate details.

In Matsuyama’s work, traditional icons are positioned within a context that is not limited to the time or place of their origin. The figurative paintings take inspiration from a variety of subjects, including Japanese art from the Edo and Meiji eras, classical Greek and Roman statuary, French Renaissance painting and post-war contemporary art.

The visual language of global, popular culture as embodied by mass-produced commodities is reflected in vivid colours applied in meticulous layers and patterns.

It is all about blending, crossing and melting. Cultural boundaries do not exist in Matsuyama’s paintings. The flatness of works and traditional figures adopted from Ukiyo-e, Japanese art from the 17th through to the 19th centuries featuring woodblock prints and paintings of subjects like kabuki actors and sumo wrestlers, find their counterpart in the pop-art colour palette in which they are painted.

By making connections between American and Japanese Abstractionism through referencing artists from both worlds, Matsuyama is commenting on the phenomenon of the global familiar versus the local familiar—and, most importantly, where those two intersect.

In a managerial manner, Matsuyama plans his canvases down to the last detail before they are produced.

The shapes of the canvases are often unusual and made to order which is a rather expensive undertaking that puts additional pressure on profit margins But, Matsuyama says shrugging his shoulders, you got to make what you got to make.

Matsuyama says about his assistants they must be “detail oriented and willing to put in their all for the sake of creating a perfect work – I do admit that tends to be Japanese.”

Having studied business management in Tokyo before finishing an MFA in communication design at Pratt Institute in New Zork, his view is different from that of most artists.

Like his Japanese colleague Takashi Murakami, Matsuyama does not make a secret of working with multiple artisans. The level of understanding and perfection required is high: there are cultural elements but it’s mostly impeccable technical skills which are required from the producers who work for the artist. There is a meticulous vision due to being manifested but also a detailed schedule of colour schemes and shapes which ought to be fulfilled.

Running a large studio means everything happens simultaneously; there are last details to be perfected while there are new works to be started in a with unlimited dedication right away.

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