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チェックと日本の現代美術界についての感想

Erina Matsui

2009年12月25日


The first time I met Erina was at Ueno station Starbucks. It was a fun interview, and even though I was late for an appointment, she dragged me around Ameyoko to find a purikura machine for a souvenir before I could leave. The second time, we also met at Ueno station, this time jumping on a shitamachi train to Machiya, to her studio to see new works in progress and her toy collection. It was Christmas, and getting dark early. The neighbourhood was full of twinkling Y100 stores and pachinko parlours. I counted, approvingly, at least three local sento baths still in operation in the streets nearby. Afterwards, at my insistence this time, we found a cosy brown 60’s kissaten for a coffee and cake set. They were playing the Beatles, and there was a corny Christmas tree with musical toys on it that Erina loved.


MY COSMO show at Yamamoto Gendai 2007

In fact, I’d already seen her talking about her work at the opening of her successful first Yamamoto Gendai solo ‘My Cosmo’ in Autumn 2007, but she was mobbed that day by family friends, well wishers, BT journalists, and anxious collectors scrambling to get on “the list”. That was her first big splash on the Tokyo commercial scene. The waiting list and prices have been growing ever since. It’s not easy being successful so young. Fondation Cartier in Paris already acquired and showed works of hers in 2005-6. She had already had a solo show in Europe—at the Fundacio Miro in Barcelona in 2007. When you are young and this successful, as the expression goes, you are only as good as the last great thing you did.

Matsui is “Erina”, inescapably, of course, because of the way she puts herself – her face in contorted self-portrait – in almost all her work. For me, the essence of Erina was already captured in the brilliant cover photo she used for her art school entrance portfolio (the top image above), that is a cheesy parody of one those ubiquitous J-teen magazines, like Cutie or Kera. It was also one of the things that most caught Yuko Yamamoto’s eye when she signed up Matsui, and the gallery continued using it for her fast expanding portfolio of professional works.

What is evident is the ribald streak of humour that runs through all her work—something I see in the Japanese owarai tradition, a kind of “gag art” that in Tokyo is mostly associated with Aida, Ozawa and Mizuma artists. So, mixed in with the cute and infantile (a familiar Tokyo girls idiom) are other things that look grotesque or ugly and play very consciously with a kind of distorted self-obsession. This heady cocktail lifts her clear of the flat illustrations of the Kaikai Kiki girls with whom Matsui often incorrectly gets bracketed because she won Takashi Murakami’s Geisai art fair in 2004. Her works are never flat, but elaborately painted, and play on all the senses; indeed, they sometimes jump off the wall. There is something quite pallid and humourless about the way Kaikai Kiki manipulates overworn teenage girls’ iconography – all fey dreams and teenage trauma – for the western neo-japoniste taste. Erina, by contrast, is irrepressible and unfiltered through male otaku eyes. Nor is it obviously pitched to any market.

Matsui describes art as toys for grown ups. She remembers when very young growing up in a bubble world full of toys – of everything you could dream of – and to some extent she is still surrounding herself with this. She is in good company. Its pretty much what Charles Saatchi admits to in his recent I am An Artoholic book, and we are indeed living in a world where boys and girls everywhere continue to collect dolls, old school hip hop gear, or star wars toys well into their 40s. With Erina the collector’s passion is all energy and invention, sometimes messy and excessive. Increasingly her canvasses are spilling out into the room, with music buttons to press or pop up flaps to pull, or surrounded by home made mechanical toys she has made. The obsessions are clear. But the other thing that is obvious talking to Erina is how hard she is thinking about her work, and how much she is concerned with its conceptual development and her next educational step—probably international. It is something not always immediately obvious behind the vaudeville theatre of its presentation. One thing is for sure. Her work has immediate visceral impact, anywhere and everywhere it is seen.


EBICHIRI (2004), the breakthrough work

The Geisai breakthrough, at 20 years old, was obviously important for her. She is the most successful artist to have won that competition. But it is equally significant in her success that unlike other winners, she chose not to get involved with the Kaikai Kiki organisation, although it was offered to her. The main reason was education – she understood very well that winning an amateur art fair, even with Takashi Murakami’s name on it, cannot replace an art school training, or the years of technical and conceptual development you get by being an individual artist out among other artists. She went from Tamabi into the oil paining MA at Geidai to further develop her techniques. She has found other mentors and teachers everywhere she goes – she mentions, in particular, Motohiko Odani’s steady advice, as well as the peer group pressure of classmates.

It has been a busy couple of years. There was the ‘How to Cook Docomodake’ group show in 2007, that featured a huge painted Tokyo trash classic by her, with her famous namesake, “A Type” baseball player Hedeki Matsui, peering into the screen.



There was her ‘Star Wars’ painting selected for the Tokyo Art Award finalists in 2008. There was the ‘Simple Art of Parody’ show in Taipei, that showed several works, and was also selling Erina toy collectibles. Later in the year she put together a brilliant sketch book, with additional stitching and pull out flaps, for the Moleskin art show that was made for the opening of the “Detour Tokyo” MoMA art store on Omotesando. Here is an interview with her at the opening.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3gL4Aif7KM&NR=1

Right now, you can see work at the “NeoNeo girls” show at the Takahashi collection in Hibiya, and also a room at the spectacular No Man’s Land transformation of the condemned French embassy building in Roppongi, where she opened the work in rococo Franco-Japanese style in a Marie-Antoinette costume (see her art blog on ART-iT). There hardly seems time for it all.

The northern shitamachi years are ending, at least as far as her studio location. She is moving to what she says is a “beautiful new studio” in Kokubunji. Becoming a Chuo line artist, in that other great part of Tokyo strung out in a line of esoteric locations all the way from Nakano to Kunitachi.

2010 is a big year for Erina. The pressure is on, to graduate (in a literal sense, from the MA at Geidai), but also to graduate into the adult art world, with her planned second solo show launched during Tokyo Art Week in early April. Yamamoto Gendai are expectant, and Matsui promises a brace of new big scale and surprise works. It is hard to keep moving, of course, when you have established such a signature “look” at such an early age. But with her prodigious technical talent, sharp analytical mind, and wacky off-the-wall imagination – a very rare three-way combination in any artist – I, for one, am sure she will deliver. No-one can be quite sure what Erina will do next. But there are already lots of people watching.


PIANO CONCERTO (2008)

ADRIAN FAVELL
http://www.adrianfavell.com

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