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Takehito Fujii


"New Personification: Grand Guignol en Acier"

19th November (Sat) - 17th December 2016 (Sat)

Hours: 12:00-19:00, closed Sunday, Monday, Tuesday

Receprion: 19th November (Sat) 18:00-

YOD Gallery is pleased to present " New Personification: Grand Guignol en Acier," by Takehito Fujii (b.1968), his first solo exhibition in Kansai area. 

Fujii is an iron sculptor actively producing and showing his works since the 90’s. His craftsmanship and unique treatment of subjects have received wide recognition. In one of his outstanding series of work “Sculptural Punishment - Iron Masks,”(*) well-known faces are transformed into iron masks as representations of “wealth, power, and violence,” by-products of modernization benefited by iron. This series won him a Semi-grand prize at Taro Okamoto Memorial Award in 2005 (with no grand prize winner), leading to a New Artist of the Year Award at Aichi Prefecture Art Culture Recommending Award in 2008.

Fujii’s works are full of paradox. “New Personification” and “Sculptural Punishment - Iron Masks,” the two representative series speak for themselves. Both series appear as the hand-forged iron sculptures in the forms of dolls and masks, literally what has been rejected from the concept of Modernism. Where they take the viewer, however, is the opposite end from what they first appear to be. “Sculptural Punishment - Iron Masks” is a forging of one’s murderous urge. Looking into the production process, the viewer would realize he or she is lead to the realm of sympathy toward the subject surpassing the positive/negative feelings considering the amount of labor artist went through, almost equal to that of actual murder. “New Personification” series presents lovely iron dolls as the figures of cruelty and ruthlessness. They show no cruelty or ruthlessness in their physical expression, but they are so because of the material and the process they are made with. Fujii’s paradox has convincing quality that is different from mere arrangements of symbols, a typical method of leading to the possible paradox, or from an irony that rests firmly on the accepted notion. It is the intensity of the work and skills developed as a result of the artist’s confrontation with the paradox.

 At “Grand Guignol en Acier,” the first solo exhibition at YOD Gallery, new dolls aligned with “New Personification” will be on view. Please take this opportunity to view the work of Takehito Fujii in person at YOD Gallery.

- Artist Statement -

Grand Guignol en Acier

Grand Guignol, a grim theater jumble of decapitation and blood-splatter started at the end of 19th century, France. I have no intent to present this show as a mere horror. What I prepared are modestly altered iron dolls, of innocent girls.

Why Grand Guignol, then? I call it so because the encounter of material and essence, or iron and dolls itself is cruel, the worst in the past several centuries.

Before modern era, idol and fetish as objects of worship, the ancestries of dolls were the center of communities. Comes the age of iron and the Industrial Revolution, the objects of worship were replaced by economy and science. Accordingly, the iron and the doll now are the elements of the future and the past, the invader and the invaded, the antipodes fighting over the center of the world. The iron dolls of delicate build are forced to take in such fact, and to live ever after under a tearing force of conflict.

In the production process, though it is vital to maintain the quality and strength achieved by traditional handwork, I try to balance those two attributes so neither element take over the image. If the purpose of my production were mere denotation, it would not require this much of labor. The labor is required for visualizing what is beyond the conflict in the form of physical objects

The result may suggest another possible “iron age,” as we can think of the robot animations especially popular among boys since the 50’s. In other words, the “iron puppet show” as an archetype of yet undefined collective unconscious.

Takehito Fujii 2016.10.3

*Sculptural Punishment: On Iron Masks (Translation by Stan Anderson)

Why do I make faces out of iron?

Iron is a basic material in the modern and contemporary world. Modernization has been carried out by expanding the production of weapons, cities, and motor vehicles made of iron and steel. Modernization has resulted in great concentrations of power, created vast differences between the wealthy and the poor, and generated fear, hatred, and arrogance. These mental states also have their origins in iron. Therefore, objects and conditions existing today that are related to iron and steel are products of the imagination that have been stimulated by this material. Human beings have put iron into the form of battleships, swords, and skyscrapers. The conditions of modern or contemporary life are based on iron and steel, so the identities of people that have been achieved or maintained in modern times are also expressions of this material. Thus, when I use iron to form human faces, they have a self-evident familiarity for modern people that cannot be obtained with other materials such as wood, stone, or bronze.

Light “Punishment”

I make my face sculptures by heating a steel plate with a burner and hammering it into shape. As a result, it is all surface, empty on the inside. I hammer both the front and back of the plate. The characteristics that originate on the inside of the mind or spirit are beaten out and formed from the back (inside) and those that are caused by external or social factors are beaten and formed on the surface (outside).

In the same way that the face of an actual human being is formed, individuality comes into existence on the surface, on the border where inside meets outside. This condition reflects the method of fabrication. Tracing the ups and downs of the surface, which can be seen as the site of existence of the individual, becomes a virtual experience of the individual’s life. This process arouses a sense of affirmation that transcends the good or evil attached to the material existence of the person, a sense that may be close to a kind of love. 

Whether sculpture “becomes” the person on which it is modeled depends on a feeling that is close to a desire to commit murder. While using a hammer to beat out the sculpture in the form of a person’s head, the degree of synchronization between the image and the model increases. There is a certain point at which it is possible to have the illusion that the violent action is intended to destroy the person who is the model, and at this point I can bring the process to an end.

In order to create this kind of sculpture, it may be necessary to exert the same amount of effort that would be required to kill someone. The image can only be completed by arriving at a place where “affirmation of existence” (which is close to love) and “murder” become synonymous with “making.”

With these face sculptures, I am attempting to reproduce the sensation of an interval in which human beings make direct contact (an interval of intimacy or an interval in which it is possible to stab the other person directly). All that exists in this interval is a “simple individual” or “full-sized life,” which can be seen or observed transparently from any direction, with no relation to social position or power. This way of working cancels out the identity given to “steel” by showing the form of the model as a medium, and is also an act that reduces it to “full-sized life.”

 The image is formed, beaten to death with a hammer, and placed in a position where it can be seen from above and from all sides. This is the “light punishment” I visit on the models.

In the completed work, the iron masks that comprise the sculptural punishment, the separately created heads are placed in a line, reminiscent of the way the heads of executed criminals were displayed to the view of the public in the past.

There is a great difference between the exposed heads of executed criminals and monuments in honor of people who have rendered great service to the community. However, I believe that the people who are put on display have the same internal reality, only differing by age and place of origin.

My work is a form of homage to monuments made in honor of great people, which make up the majority of the sculpture existing in the world.

    Takehito Fujii June 14, 2003
    Revised April 28, 2004

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