Tomoaki Ishihara

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Ishihara creates works in various forms including sculpture, 3-D photo, color or b/w photographs and oil on canvas, and through these mediums he experiments with his thoughts challenging the formula of art and society.
“Scotoma” is a term that means “blind spot”, thus describing the inability to understand or perceive certain matters. It is also the name of an illness that is marked by a permanent or temporary area of depressed or absent vision. Ishihara thinks that scotoma exists physically or mentally throughout society.
In the exhibition, he exhibited an evacuated sphere made from glass that hung from the ceiling with thin wire. The transparent object displays no clues as to whether the inside is really evacuated or not. Ishihara wanted to make the evacuated air noticeable by creating this glass object floating in space. The work is thus another version of a blind spot that alludes to something people donユt want to see or cannot see unless they are willing to do so.
The term “Scotography” refers to a print taken by abnormal light such as the invisible rays of the X-ray and electron. Ishihara’s “scotographic” self-portraits were also juxtaposed into the show. The ’self-port’ photographs were taken by an electron microscope in order to achieve micro-images of the skin and hair of the artist. These photos appear to be black and white abstractions or landscapes, and can hardly be recognized as portraits of the artist. Ishiihara’s intention here is to subvert the concept of the self-portrait and the image of oneユs self.







Ishihara Tomoaki − The Museum and Myself
By Ayelet Zohar

The two works by Ishihara presented in this exhibition (Untitled 196, 1998 and Untitled 200, 1999) continue the style of thought first tackled by Morimura. A Japanese male artist, dislocated into a Western cultural shrine of beauty and femininity. While Morimura has chosen to penetrate his images through dress and masquerade, Ishihara selects to position himself in the actual location of the ‘original’ images. This positioning becomes a sort of metaphor for the contemporary position of individual existence of the Self.

The series was taken in various museums throughout Japan and in Western countries*1. Ishihara himself appears at the centre of the image, out-of-focus, while the image beyond in the background is of Western women in the nude (Untitled 196) and Japanese beauties (Untitled 200), sharp and focused. In both works, the viewer experiences the question of ‘subject’ and ‘background’ [or ‘I’ and the ‘world’] as the main theme.

However, several contradictions and oppositions reside here in one image at the same time: in classical painting − especially in Renaissance and Baroque images − the feminine image usually occupied the central position of the picture. This was the image presented to the viewer. In Ishihara’s images, the subject of the picture is the artist himself. In the classical picture, the central figure receives all the attention and focus, while here it is blurred and out-of-focus and the focus is directed to the background. What appears at the centre is the artist, who traditionally is supposed to be absent from the picture (which is, on the other hand, his hand and body print).

These flips of direction − those who should have been in the background are foregrounded, and those who traditionally occupy the centre are pushed away − these formal transformations create very interesting associations in various ways, including the generic aspect: the classical Gaze of the viewer towards the naked female who occupies the picture centre is now inverted, blurred, and nearly shattered. Instead of the naked body given to the viewer, there is an unclear male image gazing indistinctly towards the viewer’s gaze. The result is the destabilizing of the known power relations between the Gaze and the viewed. This kind of personal ‘haze’ may be also interpreted as perplexity, unclear-ness, doubt, questioning.

The artist-image serves here as a sort of metaphor for questioning in general − the questioning of male/female relations, Japan and the West, and so forth. Ishihara chooses to pose all these doubts and question in the environment of a museum, and therefore he specifically points his perplexity into the field of fine art, image, beauty and, in this case, gender as well.

*1 Untitled 196 was taken in Kunsthaus Hamburg museum in Hamburg, while Untitled 200 was taken in Nishinomiya Museum, 1999.

Ayelet Zohar was the curator of PostGender: Gender, Sexulaity and Performativity in Contemporary Japanese Art, exhibitied at Tikotin Museum of japanese Art, Haifa Israel Sep. 2005 – Jan. 2006