Story II | Seduced by the Other

LKG_JapaneseArt_imamura_yoshio_dts_red_650pxImamura Yoshio – Door to Silence – detail

In the corner of Imamura Yoshio’s (b.1948) masterpiece Door To Silence’ (Chinmoku no Tobira) is a small red square (pictured above): ‘Do you know what this is…’ quizzed an impassioned Italian art history lecturer visiting the gallery…’it’s amore’! Responding with passion to the underlying allure of the work’s expressive abstraction, and with intellectual appreciation of its internationally contemporary tropes, we might wonder to what fantasy his personal door opened. One of my doors is the door to the labyrinthine medieval library of Umberto Eco’s hypnotic novel ‘The Name of the Rose’. Odd you think? Perhaps yes, if we look at ‘Door To Silence’ in isolation from Imamura’s personal story and his other works in Presence II The Art in Artist.

Imamura’s editioned prints, ‘Between Sky and Earth’, (sora to chi no aida) and his Zodiac series, intermingle European mystical alchemical and astrological symbols, redolent of the Masons and Rosicrucians and the context of that alluring library, with Japanese aesthetic sensibility. ‘Door To Silence’ sits in the current world of universally accessible global contemporary art, little of which is seen in Australia. This is a world in which Japanese-born artists are acknowledged and lauded, in the commercial art world and those of museums and academia.

LKG_JapaneseArt_imamura_yoshio_dts_red_650px-2Imamura Yoshio – Door to Silence – detail

The romance of the ‘Door To Silence’ landscape is created from the wisdom of Imamura’s life journey and manifested through his creative use of materials. A rusted iron panel (pictured above), a found object, focuses our attention on the top third of the work and perhaps gives rise to a quick assumption that this represents the ‘door’ of the work’s title- or perhaps the escutcheon of the larger sculptured metal panel above. Look however below the matrix of 36 inlaid lead dots (see top image) – does this not conjure Sauron’s eye (Tolkien Lord of the Rings) and another possible gateway? Alternatively, the abstract landscape of the lower two thirds of the work, created with red clay, urushi, charcoal and traditional Nihonga mineral pigments, might suggest that we are already on the other side of the door. In the editioned works, it is the Western Zodiac that appears in the natural land and skyscapes. Imamura uses traditional Japanese materials, gold and silver foil for example, with techniques of engraving, copperplate etching, collography and chine collé perfected during his government sponsored residencies in Paris.

LKG_JapaneseArt_imamura_yoshio_monet_japonaise_650px-2La Japonaise (Camille Monet in Japanese Costume) 1876 – Claude Monet (1840–1926)
From the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Paris, the home of japonisme. This is where we encounter the seductive world of the exotic Other. In this case, for the European, the Other is Japan of the second half of the 19th century, ‘…a parallel country of licensed gratification, artistic, commercial and sensual’. (Edmund De Waal The Hare with Amber Eyes’). Coinciding more or less with the opening of Japan to the West after two and a half centuries of politically enforced seclusion, Japonisme in general was as an influence in the works of the Impressionists and the Art Nouveau movement, and the fascination continues in the rise and rise of manga and anime.

Imamura Yoshio – Wind project #3 1991. Collection of the Art Gallery of NSW Sydney

For Imamura, born in 1948, the supposed superiority of Western, particularly American culture, would have been reinforced by the defeat of Japan in WWII. He was a young artist in the politically charged environment of post-war Japan, a period that saw the emergence of the now internationally recognized Gutai, MonoHa, Sodeisha (ceramics) and Bokujin Kai (calligraphy) art movements. Each of these can be seen in some way as the Japanese fascination with the Other- Occidentalism. There is a beguiling dalliance between East and West in Imamura’s works. In his early years, Imamura created works influenced by American contemporary art. Abstract Impressionism was in its heyday, and America was replacing Paris as the centre of the art world. He notes that he felt dissonance with his own identity, perhaps experiencing himself as a psychological Other, and lost his way, suffering a breakdown and losing his passion for creating art. Imamura’s experience with the occidental Other though, can be seen as an integral part of his life journey as an artist. Represented in the museums of Los Angeles, Singapore and the AGNSW amongst others, Imamura’s Door To Silence is a rare original work significant in any collection of contemporary art.

The Japanese galleries of 19th century Paris were described as places of exotic enchantment, destinations for ‘rendezvous des couples adultères’ (De Waal). Without encouraging or discouraging the latter, we would like you to see our gallery and its works as a destination for ‘rendezvous artistiques, intellectuels, et sensuels’.

LKG_JapaneseArt_imamura_yoshio_dts_detail1-4Imamura Yoshio – Door to Silence (2008)
Red clay, Urushi, Charcoal, Traditional Nihonga Mineral Pigments, Found Object (Rusted Steel), Hand carved Wooden base, Lead Panel
119 x 213 cm
47.6 x 85.2 inches
Price on application :

Imamura Yoshio – Between Sky and Earth
Mixed Media Print – Etching and Chine Collé
90 x 60 cms (framed)
36 x 24 inches (framed)
$2000 AUD + shipping + GST (gst applicable for Aus residents only)
email to purchase

Imamura Yoshio – Signs of the Zodiac #Taurus
Mixed Media Print – Etching and Chine Collé
27 x 37 cms (unframed)
10.8 x 14.8 inches (unframed)
$850 AUD + shipping + GST (gst applicable for Aus residents only)
email to purchase