Review: Tetsuya Ishida

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 9:05pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 9:06pm

Tetsuya Ishida

Gagosian Gallery


Tetsuya Ishida died, a possible suicide, under the wheels of a train in 2005, aged 31. He studied design and illustration at university and differentiated his design work from his "superior illustrations", seen in this exhibition, which were done ostensibly for himself.

His intricate paintings imagine daily scenes from a melancholic, technically adept but emotionally deprived world. His composite humanoid figures - sometimes part-man, part-animal, part-machine - were, significantly, painted in mock resemblance of himself.

These carefully rendered paintings envision Japan and its ritualised consumerism in scenes of nonchalant perversity but are told in familiar settings of conformity. Horror author Ramsey Campbell described Japan-born British writer Kazuo Ishiguro's 2005 novel Never Let Me Go as a "classic instance of a story that's horrifying precisely because the narrator doesn't think it is." Likewise, Ishida creates imagery that almost passes as normal. A reading of Ishiguro's book, with its dystopian portrayal of a world that harvests humans for their body parts, is a literary equivalent and reflects closest the awfulness of Ishida's painted world.

"I am strongly drawn to saint-like artists. The people who truly believe that the world is saved a little with each brush stroke," Ishida says.

In particular, he admired the work of American artist Ben Shahn, whose strong social realist paintings showed workers militantly demanding their rights.

However, Ishida's social concern uses a 1990s techno-anime aesthetic showing participants cajoled into apathetic submission by a delinquent world. Untitled (2), his most provocative painting in the exhibition, seemingly shows a young man's lost weekend of binging, smoking and eating junk food. Changing aspects of the man have him listening to music, looking into a hand mirror, staring out a window and eating. The man has no legs and is dressed in a plastic bag.

Waiting for a Chance (left) is a hospital ward of wrecked cars for beds and zombie-like patients. There appears to be no possibility of escape, and no end to this imagined bedlam.

John Batten

Until December 21