Yusuke Akamatsu. Flag Of The People. 2021
A certain "vibration" or even a "scream" are always present in my works. I would say, they are tantamount to a subconscious scream of a person. "Intolerance", "greed", "envy" and "thirst" seem to seep through them. I extract these invisible elements from the surface of the river, the cracks in the wall, advertisements, vague contours of human faces. Formally, my works consist of colour and typographic experiments, but the most important thing about them is the inspiration that the viewers derive while communicating with these works; they find something important for themselves there. In this sense, digital art and the art of the pre-digital era are no different. However, I believe that my works tell the viewer that the world has drastically changed. And this is important.
About the Artist
Yusuke Akamatsu (b.1967) is a Japanese artist who came into the art world from the film background. Since 1995 his art-house horror cinematography was cinematography was influence of legendary David Lynch; Lars von Trier, to whom he owes the sense of composition and processing style; and Wong Kar-Wai. He then started experimenting by fusing film and photography: since 2017, he has worked in techniques of collage, assemblage, and montage, blending different mediums and disciplines to produce unique poetic artworks, exploring the complexity of human existence. His prior work taught him to combine two seemingly incompatible methods: an intense, spur-of-the-moment attitude and a contemplative, meticulous gaze that penetrates the essence of the observed phenomena.
Yusuke Akamatsu is a very careful aesthetic observer. When he arrives in the city, he makes himself invisible. He blends in with the backdrop of transcultural, transhistorical, displaced environments. Contemporary cities are more than the melting pots of people – they leave their own cultural footprint not only on those who inhabit them, but also on the mere passers-by, who can undergo fundamental changes. As one views the complexity, richness, and the contrasts of the society through the lens of the postmodern reality, one needs to develop agile and transdisciplinary sensitivity.
He is, in a way, a New Age street artist. If Keith Haring had access to iPad and AR (Augmented Reality), he would have certainly opted for creating large, impactful pieces in both physical and imaginary landscapes. Like Haring, Akamatsu blends the expression of his poetic reflections on our world with the medium that defines his time. He dwells in the cities in search for the glimpses and moments that would serve as the door into the poetic space of “here-and-now”. At the same time, he places visual anthropology within the context of art historical heritage and does not dismiss any aesthetic languages that were invented before him. He carefully builds up on the tradition of communication with and about the city. Haring work referencing Brueghel and Bosch, a nightmarish “combinations of science fiction and this strange nuclear aftermath” (Haring on Untitled, 1984) was an example of capturing the feeling of the society and politics in 1980s New York. The anticipation of a catastrophe combined with the unfolding AIDS crisis, the increasing nuclear threat, as the US-Soviet relations continued to escalate, and the growing cost of living, as economic crises were mounting, their significance had not yet been comprehended by pundits. That was the moment when art, with its courage to ask the questions, still remaining unanswered, entered the scene.
In Yesterday and Tomorrow, Akamatsu uses the language of the street to create an abstract collage which captures the anxiety of the big city. The advertised objects from the posters on Parisian streets morph into grenades in the eyes of the viewer. The city bombards us with flashy images of continuous consumption: it is “carpet-bombing” us with sensations, narratives, conflicting stories. There is no “Now” or “Today”: it all is about how “Yesterday” defines “Tomorrow”. The anticipation of the future is based on a well-packaged, constantly reconfigured, oversold nostalgic past. Akamatsu’s paintings capture this anxiety of the city and the breach in the perception of time and space: vivid colours emphasize the impact of the imagery that aggressively shifts our focus away from our numerous cares and upon itself. Ripped off performance bills and advertisements of the upcoming products reveal the layered vision of the modern city that has no present.
Text by Denis Maximov