Tomokazu Matsuyama

Tomokazu Matsuyama’s energetic pop-inspired works muse on cultural identity in the age of the internet.

Having grown up between Japan and America, Matsuyama explores the personal implications of cross-cultural identity for a globalised generation. His bright, complex images move freely between abstraction and representation, and merge Eastern and Western art histories, from Pop Art, graffiti and Manga to the Edo and Meiji eras, French Renaissance painting and classical Greek and Roman sculpture

  • Works held in collections including Asian Art Museum, the Bank of Sharjah in Dubai, The Royal Family of Dubai, Point Leo Sculpture Park, Toyota Motor Corporation
  • Solo museum show Accountable Nature at the Long Museum, Shanghai, 2020
  • Solo show, No Place like Home, at Zidoun-Bossuyt Gallery, Luxembourg, 2018
  • Solo show, Oh Magic Night, at HOCA Contemporary Art Foundation, Hong Kong, 2017
  • Solo show, Made in 17 hours, at The Museum of Contemporary Art with Windows and Intel, Sydney, 2015

Matsuyama’s canvases are rarely rectangular. Instead, they take on irregular shapes that often suggest the outline of an ancient Japanese scroll. Matsuyama, like his Japanese colleague Takashi Murakami, also works with multiple artisans to create his works with exceptional levels of technique reminiscent of traditional Japanese painting. Combining domestic motifs like books, plants and furniture with the expressionless faces of his figures, Matsuyama blends the familiar and the strange in a representation of his own personal identity between two different homes.

"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"

Matsuyama’s site-specific sculpture interacts with its environment and audiences. Hanao-San (2020) is a 8-meter-tall stainless steel sculpture commissioned by East Japan Railway Company and LUMINE Co. at Tokyo’s major train station, Shinjuku Station. The towering sculpture is a twisting, subverted depiction of a young boy surrounded by flowers, patterning and cartoon hands which translate the artist’s fluid line and angular compositions into a mirror-finished 3D form. Matsuyama refers to the work as a “Metro-Bewilder,” keen to harness elements of surprise in the sculpture and fuse notions of rural and urban hinted at by incorporating the words ‘Metro’ and ‘Wild’ into his personal phrase. Thus, Hanao-San brings a different take to the materials and streamlined aesthetic of its surrounding architecture which epitomises contemporary hyper-consumerism in Tokyo and beyond. In conversation with its environment, Hanao-San finds a perfect balance between juxtaposition and harmony characteristic of Matsuyama’s trademark style in both form and concept.

Tomokazu Matsuyama, Hanao-San, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.

In a time of the internet’s instantaneous connectivity, the boundaries of culture and identity are dissolving. Matsuyama’s intricate patterns, epitomised in paintings such as Sun Is Dancing (2013) and You Need To Come Closer (2014), recur as a motif throughout his work. Colourful and peculiar shapes lodge into each other and interconnect, collapsing into one great, multi-coloured canopy in a metaphor for the diverse and interrelating cultures of a globalised world.

now or never tomok
Tomokazu Matsuyama, Rebuilt Now or Never, 2019. Courtesy of Zidoun Bossuyt Gallery.
Tomokazu Matsuyama, Sun Is Dancing, 2013. Courtesy of the artist.

Matsuyama’s incredibly technical compositions expose the twofold nature of our time: while our online identities are no longer bound to geography, our physical and psychological selves are more dependent than ever on the wealth of information that we consume. A celebration of the borderless space of the internet, Matsuyama fragments notions of national and cultural norms, tirelessly transforming personal and collective histories into his rich artistic vision. 

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