Project at ZK/U - Masaki Yada

Masaki Yada ( Japan )

Masaki’s meticulously rendered paintings show the culmination of his endeavour to bring forth the language of painting found in old masters’ paintings, whilst exploring ways in which the utterance of such painterly language holds relevance to contemporary culture.

It is ubiquitous in contemporary art that artists attempt to bring dialogues of socio-political issues to the arena of aesthetics. As the role of art needs not to be confined in the fabric of art for art's sake, it is a purposeful venture to explore multiple facets of art. From the other perspective, however, it is the case in which art is being artificially politicised and moving away from its chief concern, such as the aesthetics. An eminent 19th century German philosopher, Friedrich Hegel famously predicted the end of art to arrive in the not distant future. In his series of lectures on art, he argued that art would soon be taken over by philosophy. As if attesting to this, in the mid 20th Century, the death of art was pronounced by an American art critic Arthur Danto on the site of Andy Warhol's Brillo Box. In the face of it, a formalist approach to art seems to pose a threat to this proliferating view of seeing art as a vehicle of political and social dialogues. Yet the power of art often resides not in politicisation or ideologisation of it, but rather its poetry that allows such messages to be delivered and touch people to the core. By the same token, a lack of sensory and aesthetic aspects, the power of art weakens. So where can the poetry of art be found? The poetry can be found in the language of art that was gradually cultivated over centuries by the masters in the past. The language of painting was cultivated so as to delineate stories and artists’ inner emotions that they intended to share with the viewers. While reinventing and modernising the language of painting to the present day, Masaki intends to communicate certain emotions, ideas and feelings with viewers. Yet, at the same time the symbolism filling his paintings does not purport to restrict its meaning, but allows the viewers to interpret their meanings in their own ways. Hence there is no fixed ways of reading the imagery that he renders.

Every time I inspect Van Eyck’s “The Portrait of Arnolfini” at National Gallery London, I discover a new aspect, which I was never aware of before. My art praxis is like opening the coffins of old masters and to discover treasures that buried with them like golden daggers and jewels…but how do I smuggle the lexicon of old masters from the context of “genre painting” or “candle lit still life” to the contemporary terrain? I am not a journalist, but merely observing and changes and the fluid vitality of nature under which all human activities are subsumed. I also regard myself as a messenger of our present-day concerns to the future. Language is pre-individual in that before my birth or formation of individual uniqueness it was invented and spoken and so is the language of painting. Hence, I intuited that by visiting great masters of the past, I would find a way of communicating to my descendant. This answers a question; why do I have to excavate and resurrect the virtuosity of the dead old masters? I am on the genealogy of what began a long time ago, which will be passed on from generation to generation.”

Naysayers may express uncertainty of the pertinence of such ancient painterly language, however what has changed since Van Eyck or Vermeer? There are still human desires and greed that ceaselessly precipitate wars and conflicts. “Life and Death, love and hatred, the rise and fall of empires, ego and vanity of people, faith and betrayal, the disparity between the rich and the poor, religious hostilities and advent of science in pursuit of truth, "will to power" and "eternal return of the same," to use Nietzsche’s words. Such timeless subjects interest me without dissipating. With this awareness, I see the relevance of the ancient language to contemporary art, moreover to the future.” says Masaki.