Painting Metaphors on Canvas

THE work of Hiroshi Asada presents us with painted metaphors of his life - interior and exterior - and, if we take the time to search for them, of our own lives. His paintings are engaging. They invite the eye to take pleasure in the elegantly painted textures and surfaces. They challenge the emotions and the intellect to riddle out hidden meanings in the ambiguities of the objects and the spaces.Born in Kyoto, the cultural heart of Japan, he watched his father and older brother who were both well-known painters in the traditional style known as Nihon-ga. He helped with the mundane studio tasks but did not try to learn painting from them. Plainly, he wanted something different and studied economics. He took an office job after graduation. When he was 19, he began painting in the Western manner as a hobby. He began exhibiting with other young artists of like mind. At 30 he decided to make a career of painting. "How," I asked the artist who was in New York City for his first American exhibition at a branch of the prestigious Tamenaga Gallery of Tokyo, "if you took no art lessons, did you learn Western art?" "In my father's house," he replied through a translator, "there were many thick art books. I liked Pieter Bruegel and Hieronymous Bosch. Bosch, especially, because he expressed all that the human spirit is capable of - both heaven and hell." Asada wanted his paintings to be vehicles for sharing the artist's world view with all who came to see them. After winning prizes as a "new" artist in Japan, Asada went to Europe, traveling around to see the works he had studied in his father's books and to be, as he puts it, "a journeyman artist in the traditional European sense." Paris was his home base for 11 years. During that time he had many exhibitions and won prizes in many countries for his meticulously painted canvases and for his etchings. Surrealism that convinces may sound like an oxymoron, but Asada's vines twist and grow, his eggs are fragile, his water is wet and reflective, his glass is superbly hard and transparent, his geometric shapes, precise. "White Window" demonstrates all of the above and also the beautiful serenity and subtlety of his work. Although we may find the canvas not immediately clear, the elements of nature - water, clouds, and the implied illumination - are all recognizable, as are the objects which, while placed in unfamiliar contexts, are perfectly clear. The eye is drawn to a perfectly painted egg just below the center of the canvas - white against the white of the window. "What," I asked Asada, "does the egg mean to you?" "It is what the shape contains," he answered. "The egg is a natural shape, a nature-created life shape. It is completely still, but about to live. I can feel and I would like the viewer to feel in it a hidden, secret life." His paintings are like that metaphoric egg multiplied into plural micro-universes. The small vistas layered in and out of each other form a rich complexity from which we may choose one for ourselves, knowing it to be not a fragment but an organic part of a whole as fascinating as life itself.

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