Yoshio Kitayama “Picture of living/dying”

Dates: March 17 – April 15, 2012
Venue: MEM map
open hours:12:00-20:00 closed on Mondays
tel. 03-6459-3205

MEM presents the solo exhibition Picture of living/dying by Yoshio Kitayama. The artist first started creating large-scale monochrome ink paintings on Japanese paper in 1997, which are categorized into two types: “Icon” and “Universe”. “Icon” ink paintings show enlarged human figures drawn from clay dolls the artist made himself. The resulting composition brims with layers of figures, and suggests not only the interplay among individuals in human history, but also between nations, races and societies. In the “Universe” series, the accumulation of the artist’s varied mark making in black ink creates a series of stunning depictions of the universe, which could be compared to the Mandala image in Buddhism. The ink paintings contain both the cosmos and—as Carl Jung commented on Mandalas— “a representation of the unconscious self.”

The central piece of the exhibition, History is written by the dead, presents a river of the dead streaming diagonally across the paper. In the right hand corner hundreds of figures disappear into the distance as they are blown from the river into the heavens. A group of the artist’s own ancestors stand at the edge of the frame where they witness the relentless cycling of life.

The picture that was taken down features a prominent Christ-like figure, though in Kitayama’s rendition he is female. The piece is a result of two stages of completion; Kitayama filled the background with a cascade of figures after he presented the Christ-figure in an empty field as a finished piece. Kitayama’s art practice often questions conventions in an artists’ process.

The exhibition’s title piece, Picture of living/dying, challenges the assumption that life and death are separate states of existence. Eroticism combines with faces of the living and dying multitudes in a transcendent celebration of the coexistence and simultaneous occurrence of life and death.
Kitayama’s painstaking and meticulous ink painting process underpin the monumental scale and power of his works. His expansive ink paintings invite the viewer to share, if but for a moment, a perspective broad enough to encompass the universe, the unknown and the entire scope and nature of human existence.

Yoshio Kitayama was born in 1948 in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. His sculptures and paintings have been presented internationally in many institutions and venues including the 40th Venezia Biennale, the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh, the Asian Art Biennale, Bangladesh and the Triennale India. He lives and works in Kyoto.