Sydney Contemporary

It is fitting that Lesley Kehoe Galleries’ internationally recognized artists showcase at Australia’s new international art fair Sydney Contemporary, September 19-22, at the distinctive Carriageworks in Eveleigh. The inaugural Sydney Contemporary sees the first solo show in Australia of revered abstract artist Toko Shinoda, the debut of emerging talent Tomokazu Matsuyama and the acknowledgement of contemporary screen artist Maio Motoko with her recent acquisition and current exhibition by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

In three generations and spanning over one hundred years of Japanese culture, these artists embody the continuously evolving profile of Japan in the world. International appreciation of each of these artist’s works is seminal to their careers: Toko Shinoda’s international career started in the 1950’s in New York alongside her peers in abstract expressionism Pollock, de Kooning, Miro and Picasso. It is an unbroken record of international acclaim that continues in this her 100th year with the acquisition of a painting by the Metropolitan Museum New York, and that sees the exhibition of totally new work at Sydney Contemporary. She has created a unique genre that speaks the language of both East and West.

Maio Motoko’s stunning re-interpretation of the folding screen was immediately lauded by art connoisseurs of the West. Somewhat radical for the conservative Japanese art world, Maio has been stimulated by the instant understanding of her work by the more open-minded objectivity of her Western audience to create increasingly adventurous installation works.

Emerging artist Tomokazu Matsuyama has sought the freedom of multi-cultural New York to nurture his creative talent. He seeks to create a coherent identity from the diverse elements and experiences of his bi-cultural upbringing. He creates emotionally appealing colourful vistas that transcend the mundane and speak directly to the heart.

Maio Motoko has revolutionized the traditional Japanese folding screen. Remaining true to its function in manipulating physical space, her re-creation – double hinges, differentially sized folds and reverse-sided decoration -enables a flexibility of form that surpasses the intention of the tradition. She creates architectural installations with multiple screens of differing heights and lengths. As sculptural objects they stand in a variety of formations, giving no hint to alternative manifestations. A canvas of mundane materials – aluminium foil, crushed stone, sand, iron rust, antique textiles – provides a contemporary freedom of colour and texture unimaginable in traditional work.

Maio’s concept embodies the contradictions and harmonies of Yin and Yang. She explores the negative, the dark, the decay and transience of life, juxtaposing it with the positive, light and fecund. A powerful, visceral, seductive aesthetic appeal is concurrent with emotional impact. Her unique contribution lies in the interplay of form and concept; as physical space is transformed so is inner psychic space: “It is a both a painting and an object – a bewitchingly ambivalent form. You don’t completely partition a room, but rather capture the fleeting mood of a moment and enjoy the imperceptible sound of it vanishing.”

Maio’s work is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and recently acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York.

Toko Shinoda’s international career started in a ground-breaking show of modern abstract calligraphy at the Museum of Modern Art New York in 1954, acquisition by the Guggenheim Museum in 1956 and continues with this year’s acquisition by the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York. Her work is represented in most major international institutions.

Trained in traditional calligraphy from early childhood, Shinoda rebelled against its strictures in her early teens. Master of brush and ink and its expression on paper, Shinoda explores the aesthetic of negative space and yin and yang counterpoint to its fullest manifestation as abstraction. Her traditional training informs the mastery and perfect balance of her work. Calligraphic form is sometimes merged with abstraction reflecting the eternal co-existence of tradition and modernity in her creative psyche.

Turning 100 years of age in 2013, Toko Shinoda continues to break new ground in her work. She eschews identification with any particular school or movement of art, Eastern or Western. She has remained adamantly independent, breaking with tradition, ignoring rules and expectations as they suit her individual creative needs. She has created an autonomous place in art history, testament to her description in Time magazine of 1983 as a trailblazer ‘analogous to Picasso’.

Described as a ‘hyperkinetic tableau with a dream-like mood’, Tomokazu Matsuyama’s work is accessible: An energetic, techno-coloured narrative, that while engagingly figurative, presents an ethereal manifestation of contemporary urbanized culture. Cultivating the creative freedom of the outsider in Japan and America, he announces his arrival as an accessible and therefore powerful interpretive filter of cultural elements and visual themes.

Matsuyama works from Brooklyn, comfortable in the multi-cultural freedom of New York yet acknowledging the evolving significance of Japanese culture on his work. His artistic passion is driven by identity crisis and a desire to comprehend the mélange of bi-cultural experiences that constitute his biography. From the position of outsider, he requisitions images – traditional and contemporary- with an enviable freedom that creates an individual dialogue and artistic tropes addressing the fragmentation of contemporary experience. He aims to communicate with universally recognizable symbols and techniques, visual and non-visual, multi-layered and metaphorical, to invite subjective interpretations:

‘I’m trying to gather together as many highly specific, local visual dialects as possible, to foster an international visual dialogue. This iconography contains elements of East and West, contemporary and historical, ornamental and conceptual. By integrating all of this cohesively I can create internal collisions, elements fighting against one another. This reflects the chaotic situation of our time. It would be nice, a kind of bonus, if my works could question viewers about their own identities…’

Sydney Contemporary
Lesley Kehoe