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March 14 – April 27, 2024

Opening Reception with the artist: Thursday, March 14, 6-8pm.

SEIZAN Gallery New York is pleased to present Shigemi Yasuhara: New Paintings, opening from March 14 through April 27, 2024. The opening reception with the artist is Thursday, March 14th, 2024. The artist's first solo exhibition in the United States presents eight new works of Nihonga, the Japanese traditional form of painting. Mesmerizing figures of wild plants are rendered in vivid color, utilizing Lapis Lazuli and other mineral-based paints on washi paper, in sumi ink and gold leaf embellishment. Rooted in ancient materials and techniques spanning over a millennium, Yasuhara captures the moments of awe in experiencing nature.


Shigemi Yasuhara is a direct successor of Nihonga tradition. Often characterized by tradition-based techniques, choice of materials and subject matter, the term Nihonga (literally translating to Japanese Painting) was coined around the turn of the 20th century to oppose "Yōga" or Western-Style painting. At that time, Japan was in the midst of rapid change towards modernism and westernization following the country’s reopening in 1853 after two hundred years of national isolation.  A group of artists and scholars sensed the need to preserve the heritage of traditional style and techniques of painting and formed the movement of Nihonga. One of the movement's ardent advocates was Ernest F. Fenollosa, an educator from Harvard who was invited to teach at the Imperial University in Tokyo. He first used the term in his 1882 lecture wherein he defined the elements of Nihonga as the use of outlines; reduced color palette; lack of shadows; and a departure from realism, emphasizing simple expression instead. While the political and historical intentions of the movement have long receded, Nihonga persists as a unique painting style in Japan to this day that is supported by a vibrant community of artists, scholars, and collectors.  


Influenced by masters like Hasegawa Tohaku and Maruyama Okyo, Yasuhara's subjects have always been wild nature. He prefers to paint leaves of the Magnolia Obovata and Horse Chestnut found while hiking in mountains. Yasuhara reinvigorates the plain green leaves in vivid blue using the ground pigment of Lapis Lazuli. Looking closer, one finds worm-eaten holes, emphasized with gold leaf, another traditional material of Nihonga. Yasuhara states that imperfection, fading and aging, are an inevitable part of beauty and harmony in nature.


Another notable feature of Yasuhara’s paintings is that some parts are left unpainted, finished in simple outlines of sumi ink. Yasuhara states that he reflects Japanese ancient thinking: incompleteness leads to eternity. “Temples were often built with a small part unfinished,” explains Yasuhara. "A column is missing or set upside down intentionally. This is because people used to believe once things are completed and perfect, it only starts decaying. By leaving them incomplete, things can remain for eternity.” 


Shigemi Yasuhara studied Nihonga in Tokyo University of the Arts and received a PhD in conservation of Nihonga. His works have been exhibited in Iwasaki Memorial Museum (Kanagawa, Japan), The University Art Museum, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, and SEIZAN Gallery Tokyo, New York among many others. His works are part of the collection at Yamatane Museum of Art (Tokyo, Japan) and The University Art Museum (Tokyo, Japan). Yasuhara lives and works in Tokyo, Japan.


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