Wednesday, September 24, 2014

POSTVIEW: Tetsuya Noda 野田哲也

It all started with one, but isn’t that what usually happened? Though Tetsuya Noda first won recognition in 1968 at the age of 28 and only four years after graduating from the prestigious Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, I have only know about him recently. I was going through a series of pictures in an auction when this picture caught my attention. I have the habit of not looking at the descriptions to ensure that I am judging a work purely on its visual attributes; and only after I am attracted, enticed, intrigued and/or appalled by what I saw that I look at the title, medium, the name of the artist and finally, when it was made.

Diary: June 29th '75

Post-rationalizing, I figure that what caught my attention was the unusual hushed representation of the paper bag. It was neither a traditional still life where elements – natural or man-made – are composed and set in a harmonious context nor a forced juxtaposition of contrasting elements meant to create chaos and intrigue. It was just an unassuming paper bag, not even a new unused one, but a crumpled paper bag with something inside, something that I have to guess and assume. Equally important is the slight hint of a shadow the paper bag casts on a two-dimensional plane; it was neither floating nor settled.

Diary: Dec 2nd '68

Diary: Nov 16th '69

Diary: Nov 18th '69

Diary: Dec 6th '69

Diary: Dec 12th '69

The caption read “Diary: June 29th ’75; Tetsuya Noda (b) Lithograph 5, Arches, 50.5 x 38cm, 8 of 100 (1975)”. I thought that the title is rather quite unusual. For some reason, I was expecting something inconspicuous like “Untitled” or something philosophical or odd like “The Differing Voices of an Apple and an Orange in a Folded Container Made from Cellulose Pulp Fiction”. Needless to say, I ended up acquiring it. The actual work didn’t fail me when I received it from Japan. In fact, the size and finish of the work infused it with a quality that straddles calmly the fine line of realistic and superficial.

Diary: May 11th '70

Diary: Sept 13th '73

Diary: Oct 25th '73

Diary: Sept 10th '74
Few months back, I tried to find out more about the artist, which led me to find out that this same work (same edition) is actually currently displayed in The British Museum, as part of the Contemporary Japanese Prints - Noda Tetsuya’s ‘Diary’ series that started in April 5 2014 and will end in October 5; and it is this discovery that prompted me to write this feature and share some of Noda’s works that is in my collection.

Diary: Oct 13th '75

Diary: April 3rd '76 (a)

Diary: Nov 18th '76 (a)

Since the late 1960s, Tetsuya Noda has created an ongoing series of prints under the title “Diary”. They are insightful portraits of his family, objects from his everyday life and landscapes and events experienced during his travels that are documented with warmth, wit, wisdom and weight. Noda is noted for his groundbreaking technique and concept when he won the International Grand Prize of the Tokyo International Print Biennale in 1968. His prints combined an innovative technique of combining sensitively rearranged photographs scanned through a mimeograph screen and printed with traditional woodblock techniques on a woodblock printed background. Since then, there was no stopping. This mixed-media technique became popular and recognized as a new form of expression.

Diary: Jan 15th '77

Diary: April 13th '80
For me, beyond the technique is his relentless and consistent subject matter – Diary. There is something obsessive about the whole series that lend themselves to be collected. It is almost like watching a television series that one can’t get enough of. This is mainly because Noda’s works develop with a broad narrative arc that not only let one looks into his life but also let one develop the lines that will connect the dots. Every new piece acquired is a shift in my own personal interpretation of what the story ought to be.

Diary: June 7th '87

Diary: Nov 28th '90
Diary: Nov 24th '98 in Ueno Park

Diary: Jan 15 '05

In reference to today's social network culture, it is like looking at the Facebook timeline!

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