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"The World of Yoji Matsumura" by Masayuki Nishie (cultural anthropologist)



The World of Yoji Matsumura

by Masayuki Nishie, cultural anthropologist

At times we encounter a work in which the eye delights. When this happens, the source of that delight is most often the colors, shapes or movement unfolding before the eye which have been consciously and carefully shaped by the hand of the artist with just that intent.  The artist makes certain demands of the viewer as to how and from what position his work should be viewed. What is more, there is an expectation on the part of the artist that, when viewed from the proper position, his work will impart a certain message or meaning to the viewer.

Meanwhile, the viewers for their part, wishing to satisfy this expectation, will move about in search of that proper position. And if all goes well,they should succeed in finding within the allotted space a place which affords the greatest of mind. The artist Yoji Matsumura, however, is usually as far removed as one might be from this kind of place. It is only on occasion that he will return to forms of expression on the two-dimensional surface in order to reconfirm that place.

There are certain things which give us a sense of relief just by allowing ourselves to be near them. These things have a way of transcending the five senses to appeal directly to our feelings. Gently they awaken in us past memories. The people around them may become immersed in a certain mood or sense a certain presence.

Along the roadside our eye happens upon the tiny blossoms of some nameless wildflower. Walking down a rainy back street we chance to see hanging from the eaves the little white paper image formed by a child's hand as a prayer for clear skies. In a little patch of garden stand the bamboo grass ornaments of the Tanabata Festival fashioned by other children's hands. With these sights come feelings of nostalgia and peace. The power to invoke such feelings lies in the ability of these things to stimulate imagination that draws on our individual pools of past experience. From these things, people can draw a shared sense of the commonplace of our collective past: not as knowledge but as direct experience of life. Furthermore, no question arises as to whether these things are complete as works.
Nature and the commonplaces of daily life are not sophisticated. Even though any natural object we may choose to examine is in fact the product of an immensely complicated set of circumstances, the impression we receive from things natural is one of simplicity. Yoji Matsumura uses materials chosen from his surroundings to create nature in this sense of the word. Of course, that is not to say he creates imitations of nature.  Rather, he seeks to give birth to nεw pieces of nature itself. One might say he is attempting to bring into existence signed fragments of nature. Not fragments of that nature which arouses the darker human feelings such as insecurity, fear or animosity, but of the nature associated with such familiar feelings as kindness, peace and nostalgia.

The works of Yoji Matsumura do not play to people's minds; they work on the entire body. Not only when he uses materials like bamboo, pieces of wood or cloth, but even when he chooses colder materials such as hunks of lead or steel pipes, the works he creates are not ones that demand interpretation or analysis on the part of the viewer. Rather, they tend to elicit feelings of sympathy or to awaken expectations. Perhaps it would be truer to say that, conversely, the works are made in such a way that it is the viewers who are induced to seek such feelings from the work. But, it is not the function of this type of interaction to bring the work to completion. Instead, the interaction serves to make it function as work. This is because his works are not displayed to be seen; they are there for people to be with. In other works, the people in the presence of the work share in its space, the gradual changes that occur there with the passage of time and the fresh new meanings that unfold with it. Of course, the contents of the shared meaning are not singular in nature. There is a process of giving and receiving meaning.

The artist has said, “I am not making works; I am doing works.” And, as for the people who come in contact with these works, it is not for them just to recognize what is there; each one of them should also do something in its presence.
The exhibition spaces Matsumura prepares are surely meant to be spaces where the artist, the work and the people who gather there all join in the process of “doing a work.” A space, by nature, is not something that can be brought to completion. That is why space is a vehicle of freedom and creativity.

Translated by Robert Read

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