Mitsunori Kimura's unique approach to wood carving is most prominent in works such as The Cat is Gazing at the Man (2015). Most of his sculptural works, including this one, do not include a pedestal. Instead, they are hung on a white wall at 1 to 2 meters above the floor. Needless to say, using pedestals is the most common way to display three dimensional works, but he does not adopt it. This decision is derived from his intention to control the viewing angles. Kimura decides the display height for each work in order to establish the most appropriate relationship between viewers and his works. In addition, he also uses the walls and floors as an effective means of trimming his works, which usually lack the rear half of their shapes . While it might defy the conventional idea that sculpture should be seen from all angles, this method successfully draws the viewers' eye to the most important part of the object. On the other hand, there is also an uncomfortable element in here. Since his sculptures are carved very roughly and their shapes are far from realistic representations, some may get an impression that they are unfinished.

The Offspring are Sleeping (2015) is a good sample to help understnad his approaches to modelling sculpture. Facing this work, one is captivated by the very strong texture of the material. A large amount of oil paint is used for this work. He places a lump of oil paint on the panel, shapes it into a sleeping baby, and then waits until it dries. One can only imagine how much effort and patience are required to produce a sculpture with oil paint, a totally awkward material when it is not used for painting. Making sculpture with painting material is somewhat perverted and it reminds us of the historical discussion of the relative merits of painting and sculpture known as paragone. Typically, modelling has to be followed by a process of firing (into ceramics) or casting in a different medium (bronze, for instance) in order to stabilise the otherwise flimsy material. The Offspring are Sleeping, however, went through neither of these processes. Therefore the texture of the material used in the modelling process is preserved, making this work very special and unusual.

Although carving and modelling are totally different techniques of making sculpture both historically and technically, if we consider Kimura's method of producing sculpture, it is necessary to be aware of commonality between the two techniques, as well as their differences. In terms of material, the coloring of his wood carving sculpture is all done with oil paint whereas his oil paint modelling sculpture is produced and exhibited on a wood panel. It is possible to grasp his oeuvre from the viewpoint of the relationship between oil paint and wood. Let us not forget that tissue paper, which is used in what he calls “dimensional prints”, is also a product processed from wood.

It should also not be overlooked that the artist treats the texture of his materials very carefully in the finishing process. In his animal carving, Kimura uses splinters produced from cutting wood with a chain saw to create the impression of fur. In his oil paint sculpture, the pointed edges of paint created by the viscosity of this material are used to express the detail of dog's hair. Those textures, however, are not intended as thoroughly realistic expressions of the animal motifs. They are not used in order to improve the representation, but to maximize the feel of those materials. While his animal sculptures look cute on the surface, those emphasized textures paradoxically convey the artist's clinical attitude towards the motif at the same time. In his oil paint modelling, stains of paint on the base panel look like blood flowing out from a carcass. Kimura’s adherence to texture conceals within it a somewhat nauseating sensation.

As mentioned above, there are ambiguous shapes in Kimura's wood carving. In his oil paint modelling, there is a kind of morphing or even abstraction as opposed to realism. In trying to understand where such abstraction comes from, it is not so unreasonable to take into account the fact that he has placed great value on drawing throughout his career. His grasping of shapes in a rough way is most notable in his drawings. In a work titled The Cat’s Walking Pattern (2013), for example, he expresses a cat's limbs’ continuous movement by drawing three legs for each limb (reminding one of a famous work by the futurist painter, Giacomo Balla). In other words, this work does not inform us of the way in which the subject exists, but instead of how the artist sees it. Although inspired by animals as a motif, Kimura is nonetheless never swayed by anatomical correctness. Instead, he transforms animals into something with a profound atmosphere. Although animals are his most common motif, they are just samples of existence and nothing more or less than that. In other words, Kimura's work is a meditation about life and death, just like the work of every great sculptor in history.

Unlike many sculptors who tend to stick to one technique once acquired, Kimura works boldly across the two techniques of carving and modelling, which are defined by their opposite dynamics. This fact demonstrates a remarkable talent of the artist. His new relief series, which will be shown in this exhibition, is expected to become another one of the most important works in his career. Since he has always examined the difference between the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional from the viewpoint of sculpture, working on a relief seems to be a natural development in his career. Here again, you can see his own established style with the subtle charm of forms reminiscent of drawing. It is neither a realism that overemphasizes the artist’s skills, or an empty abstraction devoid of ideas or beliefs. While working with widely popular animal motifs, Kimura produces works that evoke both a deep awareness of existence and the stupendous potential of the material.

Takashi Ishizaki
Associate Curator
Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art
(translated in English by Sonoko Nakanishi and David Hall)

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