Maki Tamura

ART REFLECTS THE MOVEMENTS that stir society, transposing them onto an expressive plane. This means that art is not merely an integral part of society, one of its vital organs; it may indeed be the only arena, the only symbolic-expressive dimension, wherein large social transformations can be recognized. This observation arises after seeing the work of Maki Tamura, a twenty-eight-year-old Japanese artist who lived in Indonesia for some time before moving to the United States. The interpenetration of cultures and the interweaving of different ways of seeing are fundamental to her works. The way she installs them in the gallery space dearly and immediately brings to mind Asian cultural references. Long rolls of canvas-backed paper, hung high up on the wall, fall from the ceiling and stretch down to the floor, like the delicate surfaces of the scrolls on which painting and writing are mixed in traditional Japanese and Chinese culture. And yet another reference, another aesthetic dimension, is interwoven with the iconography—that of decoration and ornament. The closest reference is to '70s pattern painting. Images, forms, and figures are repeated as in wallpaper, and it is precisely this modular iteration that immediately connotes the principle of ornamentation.

But what are these images, these figures, these forms? Tamura combines and superimposes Bellini Madonnas and Japanese-style landscapes, French pornographic vignettes from the nineteenth century and children's book illustrations (teddy bears, American dolls from the 1950s), School of Fontainebleau and Indian film stars, Peter Rabbit and Fragonard. Soft, light, ethereal gouache is used alongside a rigid and quasi-typographical stamp technique, which is also by definition linked to the notion of reproducibility and the repetition of motifs and images. There is no depth to Tamura's images, which mix and slide over each other, corning from disparate world cultures (popular or noble, artistic or simply artisanal). It is in this sense that her works mirror our current situation with its ever closer interdependency of worlds, reflecting the exchanges among various expressive levels that the contemporary imagination ceaselessly presents. However, it is noteworthy that all of Tamura's motifs are relatively autonomous from those so-called initial social data, precisely because they have been subjected to the aesthetic and formal principal of ornament and decoration that invests the environment, associating physical-perceptual and psychological values that are engaging and participatory.

Massirno Carboni

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.