Study of the Reflection 2, Koya Abe, 2018



Study of the Mona Lisa of the North |  Koya Abe
Study of Olympia-Meurent 1, 2018, Koya Abe
Study of Liberty Leading the People 1, 2018, Koya Abe
Study of Georgione's Venus 1, Koya Abe, 2018 Study of Mirrors 1, Koya Abe, 2018 Study of Luncheon on the Grass/Meurent 1, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of Van Eyck's Turban, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of Charles IV of Spain and His Family 1, Koya Abe, 2018 Study of Mirrors 2, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of Liberty Leading the People 2, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of Meurent/Mirror at the Folies Bergere, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of Madame Récamier, Koya Abe, 2018

"East/West is a relative concept that depends upon where you are standing.
East could be West, and West could be East
."

Study of Luncheon on the Grass/Meurent 2, Koya Abe, 2018 Study of the Reflection 4, Koya Abe, 2018 Study of Charles IV of Spain and His Family 2, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of a Woman (Velázquez), Koya Abe, 2018 Study of Degas/Las Meninas 1, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of Meurent/Mirror at the Folies Bergère 2, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of Olympia/Meurent 2, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of Meurent/Mirror at the Folies Bergère 3, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of a Letter 3, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of John Singer Sargent, Koya Abe, 2018 Study of Degas/Las Meninas 2, Koya Abe, 2018 Study of Mirrors 3, Koya Abe, 2018


"...this project...boiled the issue down to one specific function of digital technology—its
capacity for elimination, both physically and conceptually
."


Study of Vermeer's Red Hat Study of Devices/Velázquez 2, Koya Abe, 2018 Study of Luncheon on the Grass/Meurent 3, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of Maja, Koya Abe, 2018 Study of Devices/Velázquez 1, Koya Abe, 2018 Study of Giorgione's Venus 2, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of a Letter 2, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of a Letter 1, Koya Abe, 2018 Study of Liberty Leading the People 3, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of Luncheon on the Grass/Toreador 1, Koya Abe, 2018 Study of Giorgione's Venus 3, Koya Abe, 2018 Study of the Sitter 3, Koya Abe, 2018


"Western society and art are complex materials that are knitted together by many strands of cultural yarn.
It integrates seamlessly, but at the same time, if you look closely, you can detect where the texture and color originally came from.
"


Study of Vermeer's Plan, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of the Reflection 5, Koya Abe, 2018 Study of the Sitter 2, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of the Reflection 3, Koya Abe, 2018 Study of Luncheon on the Grass/Toreador 2, Koya Abe, 2018
Study of the Sitter 1, Koya Abe, 2018

Study of the Reflection 1, Koya Abe, 2018
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Artist's Statement

Vantage Point

When I see the landscape of Manhattan from the east, it looks well-balanced.
If I see Manhattan from the west, it can seem off-balance.
When I am walking in Manhattan I do not feel any sense of the landscape. I can even lose sensibility of where I am.

When I see western art I may be seeing it from the East.
If I see the history of art, I could be seeing it from the West.
When I think about western art history, I do not have a sense of where I am.

East/West is a relative concept that depends upon where you are standing.
East could be West, and West could be East.
It is not definite. It is interchangeable.
The most significant fact is the vantage point that establishes your perspective.
I am Japanese and I am living in New York City.
I am working with digital media and photography.
I create artwork and I am living in the 21st century.



At the beginning of my career as an artist in the mid-1990s, digital technology had emerged. I was excited about this new media and at the same time I had a sense that it would change the trajectory of art. Although the immense potential of digital technology was obvious and I considered the possibilities extensively, in the end, I had just a simple question: How should I utilize it? Many artists tried various ways of using digital technology in art at that time, but none were particularly convincing to me. Instinctually I felt that this was the greatest question that I needed to answer and that it would define my course as an artist.

Early in my investigation I recognized one interesting characteristic of digital technology. That is, digital itself is nothing. It is really not a thing. Essentially, by its nature, it is completely dependent. If it is not paired with physical media, digital does not have a use. Or, in the context of artwork, it does not have a function. Indeed, media ultimately defines digital technology’s character and value. Since I recognized this, I have started to think about this inter-relationship between digital technology and photography. This has fascinated me for some time, but ultimately for this project, I boiled the issue down to one specific function of digital technology—its capacity for elimination, both physically and conceptually.

This function allowed me to achieve the elimination of myself from my art. The pairing of digital technology with media erased me altogether. It was a delightful moment when I recognized this outcome—a zen-like state of nothingness.

In Japanese culture, the process of elimination is critical to achieving refinement. Through elimination of the unnecessary, the ultimate refinement of purity, can be achieved. Elimination is a process of purification and it is a means to access the eternal truth that is a tenet of Japanese cultural ideology. This process often results in the simplest form, whether physical or conceptual. The idea may be familiar in the apparent minimalism of a Zen rock garden, the refinement of the tea ceremony, or perhaps in the form of the katana or by the structure of a haiku.

For this project, the concept of elimination made sense to me. It allowed me to not leave any obvious trace of my hands or of my culture on the surface. My aim was to execute Japanese cultural principals into this project as purely as possible. When I implemented Japanese cultural principles into the project, it exposed a great paradox to me. In a way, the elimination confirmed the Japaneseness of the result. Absence is a strong presence.

In this experimental process, interestingly, I recognized that this concept of elimination is also parallel to the course of contemporary art. Looking at historical western art, you see that artists tried to eliminate the trace of brush strokes until the 19th century. Then at the turn of the 20th century they began to use certain media to erase their hands from their art. Photographic media and film or video each served this purpose. This handless or traceless media then also included industrially produced materials like soup cans, fluorescent light tubes, and even a urinal.

Western art is an internationally accepted cultural language. It has a universal foundation and as an idiom, it functions like English or French for my artwork, but perhaps more effectively. Art history functions as both source material and subject matter for my artwork as well. In this context it is like an objective triangle composed of the three elements of language, material and subject matter, each functioning simultaneously as part of a system.

As a non-westerner I learned, painfully sometimes, how important it is to have common ground in order to communicate with people outside of my own culture. From my experience in the West, I understand that language is ultimately just a tool for reaching common ground. In essence, establishing common ground is more important than the actual language itself. In this regards, I see this project as a consequence or product of my experience in Western society.

Western society and art are complex materials that are knitted together by many strands of cultural yarn. It integrates seamlessly, but at the same time, if you look closely, you can detect where the texture and color originally came from. This cultural integration began with the canvas that was made by Greco-Roman culture. Fibers created in northern, western, eastern, and southern European cultures have been sewn into it. Western art represents this rich cultural textile.

I may not grasp the cultural color nuance that Europeans may detect. Yet, my weakness could be a unique advantage as well. Perhaps this cultural distance gives me an impartiality that Europeans may not have; it might be an asset. For example, even if someone has the sharpest eyes, they cannot see the entire picture standing on just one side or from a corner of the plane. If you try to see the full extent of the three-dimensional figure, then the angle and standing position are critical for what you actually perceive. One single vantage point cannot provide a 360 degree view. It is like when you are walking in Manhattan, you cannot see the whole landscape of Manhattan from a single point, even if you are a native New Yorker. Indeed, maybe because you are a native New Yorker, you cannot see it. Vantage point matters.

Koya Abe
2018
All images and text on this website are copyright Koya Abe 1997-2019.
Topology of Art Chapter 10: Vantage Point Original series images are copyright Koya Abe 2018. All rights are reserved.


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