YAMAGUCHI. Ai. IN HER WORKS
such as "Toge-no-Ochaya（＊）," expresses the girls who
live their lives as prostitutes and wait on the men in yukaku（＊）,
the red-light district. She draws the girls into the works using the original
supports of hers and clear colors. There lie both fuzoku( ＊ ) customs those days
in the Edo-period（＊）, and her own eroticism, which makes the
viewer feel strange.
She draws the world of yukaku, which has been sensitively designed from her own
creation, based on the consideration into early times in Japan.
The way she introduces into her works is used quite differently or variously,
and some of the works have the realistic world those days (such as a series of
"Toge-no-Seikatsu（＊）," on which she draws the real
lives of the girls as prostitutes), while the others have Yamaguchi's imaginary
world (such as a series of "Kinu-Ginu（＊）," on which
you can imagine that the girls are reflected into the patterns on kimono), and
a series of "Kami-sama（＊）," on which the girls are
posing similar to the likes of the Buddha sitting in his trademarks position).
These pluralistic kinds of worlds are clearly drawn definitely as a parallel world
or a mixed view, making us inspired into the various expansions each work has.
The motive that consists of Yamaguchi's world is mainly based on a fine art
in modern times during the Edo-period, from the latter days of 17t7h to 18th century
in Japan. But it is also from her own point of view that the world has been constructed
due to her creatively catching the quality of a flat（＊）. The
expression of the figures being put into the clothes, for example, is not only
two dimensional, but also, the sands coated in Karesansui（＊）
are a flat type picture which is drawn with the line emphasized and the colors
and shapes distorted as well. To the contrary, she allows the figures to touch
the golden cloud, Kin-un（＊）, and to crawl into it, as if the
clouds truly existed there. Of course, there is no doubt that all of these characteristics
eventually end up to the Japanese way of painting, that is, "flat" form.
But this harmonized expression between two and three dimensions, into which Yamaguchi
inspires her own comprehension, is free from a sort of limitation, where the viewer
can not realize a boundary line between them.
While Yamaguchi expressed the works in such a fashion, there are in fact many
kinds of three-dimensional bodies as her own supports, including a canvas which
looks like a futon（＊） and an oke（＊）.
Introducing these solid items into her works surely transforms the works themselves
to the reality or the sense of existence and depth as an existing "object."
As a result, it is certain that, in her works, there seems to be a sense of bijinga（＊）
in the ukiyoe（＊） prints of the Edo-period, shobyouga（＊）,
and industrial arts and so on.
Yamaguchi has rather created a particular appearance or charm that can not clearly
be classified in any category but its own. This happens to result from the fact
that she has a theme of her own view of the world by gracefully using her imaginary
thoughts and her concrete forms or supports for the viewer to enjoy and appreciate.
The young girls, in a series of her works, bare childlike bodies, and many
of them show an appearance of uneasiness. They are somehow absorbed in their dreams,
taking a fancy to the objects in front of them and to their parents; nevertheless,
once in a while, staring at you aggressively. You might view each pose as either
of a natural attitude or an obstinate intention that has some kind of strength.
Whether they are wearing clothes or not, it seems to us that the girls are always
either "ignorant" of their present situation they are put into or don't
realize who or where they are now. All the more for the appearance, however, there
is just only their emotional matters emphasized, and there must be something that
has the power to appeal to us. At the same time, you come face to face with an
unforgettable element: the eroticism. The characters, which are born as the reflections
of Yamaguchi herself, make us feel the strong impression by their flesh itself.
On the other hand, it seems to be quite far from the vivid kind of description
of an ordinary eroticism about the girls. It might be because there is a sort
of story told with their backgrounds, which is full of what it is more than we
have ever expected. There is also the tendency for you to view a series of works
or two sequences through Yamaguchi's art. This might be because the stories of
the girls are absolutely described much more according to the succession among
two or three scenes or the related matter of each subject.
Now, the contemporary arts see a crossing point between the matter of a quality
of flat, which has been brought up in Japanese fine arts, and that of sub-cultures.
It is in a sense true that her way of the painting lies on the expanded line between
the two matters. And it is also so often mentioned that Yamaguchi has been directly
influenced by the way of many animations and cartoons judging from the characteristics
of her drawings.
It would be much more certain, however, that "a girl," who in herself
has been naturally obliged to grow up surrounded by many sub-cultures today, has
sensitively reacted to the present Japanese fine arts as well as those in the
Edo-period. In the fact that she projects the girls directly onto a scene all
through her sense, those kinds of appearances (e.g. a girl who becomes as small
as they can be put into a vase: a girl who is playing with flower birds: a girl
who is posing in the decorations on a statue of the Buddha, etc) must be created.
And also there seemingly remains any Japanese culture, which has a beautiful description,
what is called "mitate（＊）" in Japanese fine art. These
sensitivities are symbolized here and there, for instance, not only through using
Japanese words (e.g. Kana and Kanji in themselves, which she has especially be-
en particular about) but also impressively inputting titles or phrases on her
works with archaic Japanese words and words coined by herself.
Therefore, you cannot help realizing right now: the figure of the girls, who are
the means for her releasing herself, plays a subtle role, harmonized with the
world coming through the sense of Yamaguchi. At the same time, there must be the
strength in the works completely created at a high level. It is the power that
Yamaguchi has justified in her creation.
(text by Y.nitta/translated by Hayato KAWAI June. 2002)
: translated into "A Brothel in a Mountain Pass".
: red-light districts or the kind of buildings in the Edo-period in Japan, where
many women or girls as prostitutes waited on the men those days.
: an expression which means customs or manners as a whole, and , especially in
Japan, the sexual culture in general.
: a historical name, which is a time over two hundreds years from the early 17th
to the middle of 19th in Japan.
: translated into "The Lives in a Mountain Pass".
: means that two persons (a man and a woman) who have made love through the night
part from each other at dawn, exchanging their kimono or clothes. In this series
of " Kinu-Ginu," Yamaguchi tries to express the girls whose appearances
are filled with sorrow and sadness for the farewell, and these emotional matters
are projected into one of the pictures, for example, "a figure which is reflected
into the patterns on the kimono of a man.".
: means God or Buddha in general, but in her works, "not having anything
to a particular meaning of a religion ," Yamaguchi says.
the quality of flat
: a style of the Japanese paintings, which has smooth and level paintings without
any hollow or shadow, made by just the line, which is often seen in ukiyoe.
: a type of Japanese garden, where rocks are mainly built surrounded by white
sands which are used as a metaphor meaning water around mountains.
: a painting style like the (golden) clouds, often painted in Japanese fine arts
not only as symbols of the "time axis," but as a visual decoration on
works as well.
a futon canvas (named by Yamaguchi)
: one of the supports she so often uses in the works as a canvas for painting, which
is based on a thick clothe and made of a blanket or cotton cloth attached to a
: a pail in general, which is made of wood or sliced board, and Yamaguchi often
uses as a medium for expressing herself.
: a type of picture, especially in the ukiyoe tradition, which portrays the beauty
: a style of painting which was popular those days in the latter days of
the Edo-period, made by a woodblock print.
: a general term or compound word of "byoubue(=a painting on a folding screen)"
and "shouhekiga(=paintings on the interiors such as the fusuma: a thick paper
sliding door in Japan, ceilings, walls and so on)".
: a kind of metaphorical way, which is generally
used in Japanese fine arts, especially in ukiyoe, is a way of describing something
by comparing it to something else that has similar qualities.