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Jun AZUMATEI : Transformed shapes of the sky

Natsumi ARAKI (curator, Mori Art Museum)

Jun Azumatei paints acrylic colors on a photograph print that he has taken of the sky, puts varnish on it, then files and polishes the surface of the work, which is the process to bring his work to its completion. The sky,burnished to a smooth plane through this process, is far different from what the artist had originally seen, and now ambiguously drifting in images of variable memories and oblivion.He sometimes turns the photographs upside down and paints additional elements, which distorts the reality and the recollection of the original images further. It can be said that these vague images have reached the realm of the abstract, but nevertheless, the romantic, familiar and beautiful "sky" motif does in fact continue to exist and makes his work look ,as it were , like "classical painting" .

In this show at gallery Dojunkai, Azumatei tries to display experimental ideas different from his previous typical works. Upon entering the exhibition space, your attention is directed to "Mirage", an installation work that appears to emerge from the floor. An elliptical painting of the sky is partially buried in the center of a mound of sand. Its burnished surface appears to emit light and the image of the painting looks like a scenery reflected on the surface of a lake, or seems to reflect an image of the inner depths of the Earth. As if in concert with this work, on the surrounding walls is displayed a rhythmically-placed series of seven round pieces of works,each 18cm in diameter, named "Float/circle". The circular sky forms,released from the setting rule of top and bottom in a rectangular painting frame, are freely scattered without being constrained by the motif. In fact, the positioning of the works on the wall can be extremely flexible , the angles varying with mood. As the title indicates, each piece can freely float and revolve, changing as independently moving works.

To me, it appears that Azumatei in this exhibition wants to dare to break with the rules of motif and form of the painting that had become so characteristic of his work. The feeling of the vitality of life and nature are clearly expressed here. The breath of the Earth alluded in the sky and the moisture of a transformative organism betray the reassuring comfort found in the reworked paintings. Within the earnestly-prepared sand of the rock garden aspect of "Mirage", there is both a refined appearance and the sinister aspect of a crater or an ant hill. First of all ,this object protruding from the ground holds a powerful attraction to the viewers' physical senses. With a different quality from his previous painterly themes such as reality and illusion, pursuit of memories and landscape created by eliminating the touch of the surface, this approach appeals more directly to the senses. It now functions as a stimulating device for the five senses of the viewer confronting it.

The artist's concern about "device" can be seen in another three-dimensional work with the same name as the floor-based work, but constructed of thin cloth and a light. It is a room-shaped installation in which a light is situated within numerous layers of thin white and yellow cloth, the cloth softly illuminated by the light. One feels undeniably a lack of completion regarding the placement and form of the structure, but it can be recognized as an attempt at "a kind of stage setting", as stated by the artist.A rhythm develops from the relationship of the works with each other, an almost physical sensation on the part of the viewer lead by the works. The creation of a dynamism of the space can be described as one of the key themes of this exhibition. If it's not too much to ask, I would hope that the scene with the passersby on the avenue of Omotesando facing the gallery building will actually be drawn into the exhibition through the gallery window for a more involved experience of this show.

The motif of the sky which has become Azumatei's trademark is both his strength and his weakness. The strong lyricism that remains after all the attempts to eliminate it, contributes excessively to the sense of "beautiful painting". Even if the attempt to free himself of this has not completely succeeded in this exhibition, there is no doubt that it represents an important development towards the future for this artist. I look forward to seeing what adventures and evolutions are in store for Azumatei's skies.

東亭順 - 変容する空の形