The World of Fujiko Isomura

Statement About the Artist's Work
written by David Tabachnick

Fujiko Isomura's work must be measured by the scale she has conjured for us, a scale whose power does not come from her but from our ability to agree. In a modern world, Picasso, among others, revolutionized sculpture, painting--here is a turning point, there, here, there, new sights, new definitions, new breaks through the old consensus. In a post-modern world, a world with only provisional, apologetic canons, canons suffering self-doubt, the measure of greatness, the way of telling greatness, cannot be through revolution, since revolution requires a general agreement preexisting revolution and overturned by it. In our contemporary world of fragmented consensus, greatness is found in the ideas, emotion and grace of those who fabricate new common sensibilities.

LoversIn the Japanese Buddhist tradition of painting, gold leaf is associated with a heavenly place, and, especially if cloud shaped, erases relations of time and space, stripping away this world from the underlying myth. When Fujiko Isomura paints this place of myth East meets West, present consorts with past. Picasso stretched tight European skin over African masks. European viewers had definite expectations for a European portrait of an alluring young woman, and they were disturbed by the refusal of African maskulature to achieve or even make sense in terms of Western decorum. When cultural patterns created without mutual reference--African masks and Western canons of female beauty--are brought together in one image, you get a cultural explosion even, and perhaps especially, for the naively unprepared.

Some viewers of Fujiko Isomura's work will also experience culture shock. The grace of Ukiyo-e, heavenly clouds of gold, and Garfield? What a violation of Japanese decorum, confusing Buddhist mysticism and classical Ukiyo-e beauty with Disney's Sleeping Beauty! Those viewers experiencing shock should consider themselves fortunate. In the 19th century, graceful Ukiyo-e was mere poster art, the popular shock of it not yet gilded by history. In our time we can no longer experience Ukiyo-e as pop art. Soon enough we will see the classical beauty of Fujiko Isomura's work, but only we, her contemporaries, can freshly experience the shock of it. Out of this shock is born a new common sensibility.

David Tabachnick holds Ph.D. in Sociology from UW-Madison, USA.

(Image above: "Lovers" 1998 Fujiko Isomura)


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