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Tetsuya Ishida
at 6:03pm on 19th December 2013

Photo: © Estate of Tetsuya Ishida.


Tetsuya Ishida died, a possible suicide, under the wheels of a train in 2005, aged 32 years. He studied design and illustration at university and differentiated his design work from his “superior illustrations”, seen in this exhibition, which were done ostensibly for himself. His intricate paintings imagine daily scenes from a melancholic, technically adept but emotionally deprived world. His composite humanoid figures – sometime part-man, part-animal, part-machine – were, significantly, painted in mock resemblance of himself. 

These carefully rendered paintings envision Japan and its ritualized consumerism in scenes of nonchalant perversity, but told in familiar settings of conformity. Horror author Ramsey Campbell described Japan-born British writer Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel Never Let Me Go as a “classic instance of a story that's horrifying precisely because the narrator doesn’t think it is.” Likewise, Ishida creates imagery that almost passes as normal. A reading of Ishiguro’s book, with its dystopian portrayal of a world that harvests humans for their body parts, is a literary equivalent and reflects closest the awfulness of Ishida’s painted world.

“I am strongly drawn to saint-like artists. The people who truly believe that the world is saved a little with each brush stroke,” said Ishida. In particular, he admired the American artist Ben Shahn, whose strong social realist paintings showed workers militantly demanding their rights. However, Ishida’s social concern uses a 1990s techno-anime aesthetic showing participants cajoled into apathetic submission by a delinquent world.

Untitled (2), his most provocative painting in the exhibition, seemingly shows a young man’s ‘lost weekend’ of a day-night session of binging, smoking, and eating junk food surrounded by the messy result. Changing aspects of the man, as placed in a time sequence in different positions around the room, has him variously listening to music on his bed, looking into a hand-mirror, staring out a window and eating, covered in slimy spaghetti-faecal stains. Disturbingly, the man has no legs and is dressed in a nappy-like plastic bag that serves both as clothing and as rubbish bag.

Waiting for a Chance (illustrated above), is a hospital ward of wrecked cars for beds and wrecked zombie patients. There is no possibility of escape. There is no living chance out from this imagined bedlam.

Tetsuya Ishida @ Gagosian Gallery


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