Shin-on is a Japanese ideogram that can roughly be translated as meaning “visual representation of sound”, “music that becomes painting”, or something of this kind.
Fifty years old, Shuhei Matsuyama is a Japanese artist who bas taken Italy as his adopted home. From here, his multiple successes in Europe, the United States and his native Japan have firmly established his place in the world scene. Refined and subtle explorations of our visual perceptions of the world, his works strive to capture in vision a sort of melodious tumult, a vast murmur of sounds that have their own equivalents in images.
Behind his art one can identify an approach that I would define as “animistic”. Faced with the miracle of the truly visible, the artist chooses a sort of suspension of disbelief so that he can listen with truly religious concentration. This existential and philosophical approach is in part explained by his Japanese roots, anyone even only slightly familiar with the poetic minimalism and sublimation associated with the Eastern use of the ideogram will recognize the cultural roots of the refined draughtsmanship and rigorous yet melodic palette of Matsuyama’s work. However, this is not all there is in this artist: in his use of abstraction and lyricism, one can find a certain type of Modernity, the philosophical introspection of those who, in the heart of the “wasteland”, ask questions regarding the continuing survival of poetical values. Like Burri and Fontana, he explores and reworks the sense of proportion, balance and order that are a key part of the Classical Italian tradition. And all of this is easy to explain in an artist who studied at the Perugia Accademia di Belle Arti, and thus — by a sort of osmosis — absorbed the lessons to be learnt from Piero della Francesca and Perugino, from the Renaissance beauty of Italy’s cities and the harmony of its landscapes.
Of all the felicitous examples of the cross-culturalism which our contemporary world encourages, Shuhei Matsuyama represents perhaps the most successful. For all of us it is a source of pride and special satisfaction that Florence can now, in the Spring of 2005, pay tribute to this fine adventure of poetry and beauty.
by Antonio Paolucci