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With the MATOI painting series, first I project the image of an ukiyo-e (“floating-world painting”) onto a replica of a Greek or Roman sculpture. Then I paint a combined image onto Japanese washi paper.

The sculpture wears an ukiyo-e projection as if it were a tattoo, thereby fitting the title MATOI (which is derived from the verb 纏う “matou, meaning “to wear” or “to put in the form of”).

The series contrasts Europe and Asia, monochrome and color, and accentuates the differences between the two-dimensional images of woodblock prints and the three-dimensional ancient sculptures with smooth alabaster skin. I use both Western acrylic paints and Japanese pigments, such as rock paints, shell lime and sumi ink. Western and East-Asian art from comparative and contrastive points of view has already been thoroughly researched by notable scholars. Rather, this Matoi series takes on the juxtaposing we find in surrealism, which is best expressed by the well-known phrase, “Beautiful as the chance meeting of a sewing-machine and an umbrella on a dissecting-table.”

Both classical sculptures and traditional ukiyo-e paintings are considered “masterpieces,” and by putting together two seemingly mismatched, contradictory art forms from two different cultures, it brings about a new creation.

We can consider the “authentic” as residing at the opposite end of fakery, replicas, copies, reproductions and imitations, but this MATOI series breaks the stereotype of worshipping only “real” artworks by questioning the notion of an authentic original. When two extremely disparate realities are brought together in new, one-of-a-kind artworks, viewers may be left wondering what the line is between a genuine and a fake.

My recent works—as part of the Matoi series—use a human, anatomical skeleton as a motif, which are even whiter than sculptures. Unlike sculptures, the skeleton has no flesh to wear a colorful ukiyo-e painting as a tattoo. Instead, I use a waterfall print by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) that looks like blue veins, and a Japanese painting by Itō Jakuchū (1716-1800), which depicts red roses as flesh and blood. There is a form of European still-life painting called “vanitas,” which portrays the impermanence of life and the vanity of human desires. Vanitas paintings often include skulls, rotten fruit, and decaying flowers, all symbolizing the unavoidable change into old age towards certain death. The skeletons painted in the Matoi series, however, can be interpreted as modern-day vanitas pictures with a clean and bright atmosphere wears not even a shadow of death.

                                    Translation by Eiko Aoki