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Young Painter Takes Japan's Art World by Storm (June 22, 2006)

Matsui Fuyuko (Gallery Naruyama)
The school of Nihonga (Japanese-style painting) is an expression of Japan's artistic traditions. However, little of this art is taught in schools, and so most Japanese people are unfamiliar with Nihonga compared with more common styles, such as watercolors and oil paintings. This is changing, however, thanks to a young female artist called Matsui Fuyuko, who has caused a sensation in the world of Nihonga not only for her works but also for her striking looks.

Tradition and Innovation
Matsui, born in 1974 in Shizuoka Prefecture, is now working on her Ph.D. in Japanese-style painting at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. She relies on traditional techniques yet at the same time portrays the world of spirits and ghosts, a subject matter far removed from the traditional Japanese theme of the beauty of nature. Hers is a style of dark mystery.

"The cut long-term experiment" (Gallery Naruyama)

Her quintessential works include "The cut long-term experiment" (Setsudan sareta choki no jikken), whose subject is a large prowling dog, and "Keeping up the pureness" (Joso no jizoku), showing the internal organs of a pallid young girl. "Nyctalopia" (Yamosho) deals with a beautiful but eerie-looking ghost, and "Suddenly settled down and fell asleep" (Tadachi ni odayaka ni natte nemuri ni ochi) portrays an elephant on the verge of death.

All of Matsui's works convey a sense of the macabre. Though all are of the Nihonga school, they also bring together diverse cultural elements, as well as mixing madness and sanity, creating a world filled with intense and unforgettable apparitions.

"Keeping up the pureness" (Gallery Naruyama)

"I'm not interested in ghosts themselves, but rather in clearly understood expressions that convey the fear and anger of everyday life," she once told an interviewer. "I want to express the paradox that exists when you're depressed, when considerable strain weighs down your body, yet your emotions are floating around."

Dual Appeal
Beyond her startling works, another apparent reason for Matsui's success is her own appearance - the artist boasts the looks of a fashion model. Perhaps the gulf between her own physical beauty and the grim world she portrays on canvas is one of the factors behind her ever-growing popularity.

Matsui has received acclaim for infusing Japanese painting with a new sensibility, and her 2004 exhibition, "L'espoir 2004 Matsui Fuyuko," was hailed by her peers in the art world.

"Nyctalopia" (Gallery Naruyama)

In an interview, Matsui said she decided to become a serious painter while in elementary school, after seeing a reproduction of the Mona Lisa. She studied at the Junior College of Art and Design of Joshibi University. With a reputation for being a tireless worker, she then spent four hard years preparing to enter the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. It was around this time that she shifted away from oil painting and into Nihonga, which she describes as "fundamentally strong, cool-looking, fearsome."

The Japanese art world is delighted at the emergence of such a promising and popular artist. Matsui's appeal has the potential to set off a new boom in Japanese-style painting.

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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