Breathing life into the forgotten and neglected

by Matthew Larking

Special To The Japan Times

Painter Daisuke Fukunaga (b.1981) states: “If the world is the stage of a theater, I want to paint the bustle of the things waiting behind the blackout curtain rather than the heroine.” His motifs are of things forgotten and neglected, but unlike his earlier works of 2007, which realistically depicted drab equipment and everyday objects, his recent work further invests those elements with the fantastic. It is as if they are now imbued with life, their personalities slowly accreting in their abandon and disrepair.

At “Nostalgia,” now showing at Tomio Koyama Gallery, Kyoto, “Flowers,” for example, depicts a bunch of ragged cleaning mops inserted handle first into a cylindrical container. Splayed out in their “vase,” the mops become a kind of fanciful ikebana, dragged up from the ubiquitious to a level of beauty.

“Car Shop” follows suit. The store has long since closed down, left to decay and gather dust and nostalgic emotions of the sad and lonely. From the dark, somber palette, however, emerge fiery sparks of orange at the left and an anemone-like form that seems to stir at top, while a happy face at the bottom of the image suggests a fanciful world coming into being from the ruins. This, then, is the near supernatural afterlife of an earlier lifelikeness.

Another work, “Crackers” (2012-13), continues this thread, taking up the ephemerality of youthful play. Fukunaga paints traffic cones, arranged upright, out of the top of which they spark. They are meant to recall the leftover firecrackers and the impromptu fun of a party hastily arranged in a convenience store parking lot. Now over, all that remains of the fun and games are the firecracker casings.

The curiously titled “o∆☐” represents a different direction being pursued by the artist. Once again the work features traffic cones, though this time formal abstraction is being dredged out of the representational content. The shapes of the title are the forms seen when looking at the cones from different viewpoints: the circle bottom of a cone, the square base, the triangular cone itself. That formal emphasis drawn out from representational imagery is pursued to near austerity in “Two Rings.” In earlier work Fukunaga had depicted a couple of car tires placed side by side whereas in this current version he reduces the forms to circles.

Though limited to five paintings, the pieces in the exhibition indicate two new directions for the artist. The first is to introduce an incremental wondrousness to the commonplace that is forgotten in time. The second is the abstraction of representation arriving at the formalization of the informal. While the representational work speaks of the transient, their alternative abstraction heralds immutability.

“Nostalgia” at Tomio Koyama Gallery, Kyoto runs till March 9, open 11 a.m.- 7 p.m. Free admission. Closed Sun., Mon. and holidays. www.tomiokoyamagallery.com.