Takashi Fujiyama at Gallery NW Houseby Monty DiPietro
Something strange happened at the party for Takashi Fujiyama’s Gallery NW House show – not more than 10 minutes into the affair, guests began to eat the exhibition.
Well, at least that’s what I thought was happening, until gallery owner Kazuko Endo explained that the hundreds of quail eggs spread out over an old wooden table in the center of the room were intended to double as the buffet, along with the dozen different types of salt (sea salt, sea salt, rock salt, and so on), and the large round tray of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dates, raisons, blueberries, and, well, you get the idea. The looks-good-enough-to-eat-and-please-do installation was the work of Fujiyama’s long-time collaborator, and wife, Mami, who attributes her exotic taste in food to the many sojourns she and her husband have had in cuisine-crazed Paris over the last twenty years.
Like his wife, Fujiyama speaks French well, as do a surprising number of the tres suave guests crowding the tiny art space in Tokyo’s Nishi-Waseda, a university neighborhood which is kilometers away (as the quail flies) from any of the city’s gallery districts. This is the Fujiyamas’ fifth show at the space, which is also fairly far removed from the norm in terms of originality, and consistently mounts some of this city’s most unique and adventurous exhibits. On this occasion, the fruit and seed platter and soft French patter nicely compliment a painting show that is about the earth and language. Each of Fujiyama’s large acrylic and charcoal on paper works features figures, often rabbits, described in heavy earth tones, over which the artist has listed, in chalky whites, a selective inventory of the world’s languages. Where at first glance Fujiyama’s work might seem an attempt to address our cultural differences, there are also strong undertones of unity in place here – meant perhaps to remind us that although our tongues differ, our feet all walk on the same planet. In some of his work, Fujiyama has mixed soil with his often-runny paint to bring texture to the tableaus.
"I use dark colors primarily," says Fujiyama, "because that is the color of soil, with a few exceptions, for example, Inori Mountain clay, which is yellow." And Fujiyama points to the largest and brightest work in the show by way of illustration. A round-faced man with handsome eyes and a shock of curly hair, Nagasaki-born Fujiyama, 40, lives in Kanagawa Prefecture. When he isn’t in France, that is – he and his wife have held dozens of food-and-painting shows there over the years.
One of the reasons for Fujiyama’s appeal in Europe may lie in the moody and invested atmosphere found in his work. The artist’s hand is very evident, as is the time said hand spent building the pieces, which are heavily layered. If this depth traces Fujiyama’s inspiration, perhaps the figures point the direction in which the artist is heading, or rather hopping – there are rabbits in more than half the pictures.
"They are symbols, my rabbits," says Fujiyama, who has kept the critters as pets, "they tend to be regarded as ‘cute,’ but I think they’re actually tough little things and when I make a line-drawing of one, it always seems to end up looking like a map of the earth. So, they symbolize life on this planet."
Life in Tokyo, on the art scene at least, rarely gets as inspired (and in the case of the reception buffet, bountiful) as it is at the Gallery NW House for this show. There are about 15 works being displayed on two floors of the horizontally-challenged building. Noteworthy are a selection of nice paperback-sized pictures upstairs, being offered for only 20,000 yen (the larger works in the exhibition cost up to 1.2 million yen). In all, this is a worthwhile show from an artist who, with a little help from a gourmet wife and avant-garde gallery, does things his own way, and does a pretty good job of it, at that.
notes: Until July 5, 1999, 3204-0246. Fujiyama - Vetement du Monde