SHUHEI MATSUYAMA – SHIN-ON: VISION OF SOUND
The matter or relating visual art to music (i.e. to derive images from sound) has experienced considerable formal importance in European artistic study during this century.
At the beginning of this extraordinary cycle of paintings (in 1993) I wrote, however, that “Shuhei Matsuyama’s imaginative proposal visually represent the multiplicity of meanings for <sound> that the ideogram <Shin-On> specifically has m Japanese writing and culture.”
Therefore, we are speaking about a type of study which is different from the European one, both in the methods and the formal results.
The artist’s study has always been manifested in the particular sign of a “quiet representation of sound” — he has been a concrete participant in the five exhibitions on this theme in Venice over the course of about a decade — which he has entrusted to materials (e.g. rice paper) and to a reflexive concept (the horizon of sound, to cite only one example) which are typically oriental.
Indeed, while the “central me” of his paintings indicated “a top and a bottom” to the perception of sound, as two levels of sensitive listening, the clumps and accumulations of rice paper were, instead, testimonials to “tears and lacerations” which we can define in other words as “discords”.
Even if these aspects are not totally comprehensible at first glance, these characteristics of Matsuyama’s work have however been noted by a western observer who was open to letting himself emotionally carried by an imaginative vision that is extremely captivating and greatly enthralling.
The most recent works by the Japanese artist – also these are inspired or defined by <Shin-On> -. present however new characteristics which confirm a more complex moment of ideative reflection which we can very simply define as “diffuse and enveloped listening”.
in fact, the new paintings by Matsuyama no longer present structure as determined by the “line of the sound horizon” but rather seem to be defined by a complete and impartial occupation of space, thus rendering it significant both fully and unitarily.
It would even be possible to say, in a certain way, that his images have become apparently more “naturalistic” and that the sound that they “represent” is the secret one of nature, the one that is persistent in the world, which has no precise source and which, in fact, is diffuse and enveloping.
It is difficult to say if all this represents a point of arrival or of departure in Matsuyama’s study, but it is obvious that from a strictly pictorial point of view these works depict a more complex ideative elaboration than that which comes from formal results of renewed interest. Instead, one could say that in some way the autonomy of the painting has surpassed the difficult and anxious search for the visual representation of sound which characterized previous works.
Indeed, also at the beginning of the cycle we spoke about the prevalence of the painting’s value over the representation of Matsuyama’s work because, as we said then, “poetry is not made with feelings or with intentions but with language”.
Matsuyama’s large tempera, which he painted in this occasion and which constitutes the focal point of the exhibit, does not present visible and recognizable “listening-to-sound” reference points, however it appears as if lost in a vision which could even have a landscape origin.
In reality, this large painting does not have much to do with nature and seems instead a bright “Turnerian” vision.
It is a question of light — which is central to all western art history —that now enters the scene overbearingly in Matsuyama’ s work.
Perhaps because this cycle of paintings was born, again, for Venice, site of the myth where the great Turner discovered, in 1819, the secret of form which dissolves in diffuse light reflected by water, impartial and without shadow.
Music takes on, then, in Matsuyama’s most recent work, the connotation of a new imaginative pretext that the Japanese artist uses for the path which we can call “from the color of sound tu the light of sound”.
More simply, it is evident that his itinerary is that which, in conclusion, goes “from the painting to the painting” because his attention is directed, in essence, to the apparition of a visual event which is formally autonomous and which before then was inexistent. An event which is neither described nor narrated, anti-mimetic of nothing, that does not consider the secret ideative references of which it makes use. But perhaps the fascination lies in precisely this sort of “sacred ambiguity of the linage”, of an imaginative lyrical statement that bas nothing to do with daily routine and reality.
And that follows, instead, the utopia of showing — or perhaps hearing and listening — that which Is invisible, indeed, that which is “the sound of art”.
by Enzo Di Martino
Venice, May 2001