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The thwarted evidence

To fully understand Mitsuo Shiraishi’s work, it is necessary to start from his dual culture. Japanese, of course, with its exceptional tradition of engraving to which the artist must be attached, its atmospheres, a representation of space very different from the European, a form of onirism, attachment to traditional and sacred paths, the Hiroshima disaster to which he devotes an never descriptive but very moving cycle.

Western of course considering his references: Breughel, Jérôme Bosch, for a kind of wonderful fantastic, Odilon Redon and surrealism for the elaboration of a singular world. The object of the work is always the result of a particular and incisive look at reality.

By observing his painted and engraved work, we can capture the movements he makes. Reality gives its share of emptiness, of absence, which at the same time makes it the poetic force and penetration of Freud’s Unheimlich (“The disturbing strangeness”). He is not a story painter but an artist who knows how to make us take the place of anxiety, the unnamed and fear, with a humour that questions the how, the why, the maybe.

If we take the example of the fine filaments that cling to the sides of an abyss, there are an infinite number of questions. Who will be able to overcome such a difficulty? Who dared to face such a construction in order to build a kind of improbable bridge for human activity? Undeniably, Mitsuo Shiraishi dreams of a real thing by giving it an unforgettable content and flavour. The viewer crosses the walls of a dream that shudders from his unconscious, which manifests his quest for mythical exploits.

It provokes unthinkable, opposing relationships that hit the nail on the head to capture the world around us. A forest in an almost clear space shows a labyrinth whose exit is the entrance. It is the opposition between the built and the natural, it is the opposition between getting lost in the forest and getting mentally lost in the concrete labyrinth. This concerns above all the human being (never represented) whose absence motivates all the questions, which bases all the worries and refers to the essence of existence. Sometimes-, a puppet (almost humanized) observes the scene in the same way as a painter makes it the model of human representation. I was able to say that there is a conceptual dimension to Mitsuo Shiraishi’s work. I would like to develop this dimension because it does not extend to the pure historical side of the supporters of this art, but it gives an assessment that goes beyond Frank Stella’s “What you see is what you see”. It overflows it by indicating that there is, behind the test of tautology and facts, the apprehension of a secret that will remain unexplained, and that is all the better. I think of Tony Smith’s experience driving in the middle of the night on an unlit road and thinking of it as a sculpture or as the first formulation of a performance. The sculpture Die is what results from it, a monument, a cube of 183 x 183 x 183 x 183 cm, on a human scale, to be apprehended with one’s body since only two faces are visible, to be grasped as an explicit reference to the absence (of a body) and to death. In Shiraishi’s work, it is indeed monuments that are represented, labyrinths, walls, caravans, artificial objects, etc., that lay the foundation for reverie and existential questions. It’s a bit like a mirror for a viewer who finally discovers himself. It is through painting that Mitsuo Shiraishi challenges the strangeness of reality: the impossible exposed as evidence, the hidden given as presence, the human evoked in the ghostly fable of the automaton as the background.

There is always a context that starts between the object/sculpture (a bench, a vending machine, a bulb hanging from the invisible sky, a flag flying in an unseen wind, a cloud as a rock floating on the abscissa of a bridge, two street lamps on a road without a user, buildings like models in a child’s play, etc.).) and the place/landscape/decor (desert, forest thickness of the unknown, notches that suggest a hidden eroticism, mists-) of the Dukasian encounters to be dissected. The artist grabs us backwards. What it shows is what we can only think of in these fleeting dreams, these torrential nights and these unsolved answers. Even if we sometimes think of Magritte, Ernst, Hopper, what the artist achieves is specific, thwarting history, perpetuating traditions that he makes eminently modern. A mountain-cyclopist replays the installation Étant donnés by Marcel Duchamp by making us cross a corridor like an eye that would never find its way out. A work of allusive allusion, of dreaming that dreams, of reality that emancipates itself. A work of rediscovered intelligence that makes its tower of Babel with invisible humans. All this is so close to human appearance that it can reappear suddenly and for real. A miracle of paintings and engravings in the smooth texture of the oil that hides its application, in the fine texture of the lines that tremble and engrave the artist’s gestures and actions, in the artist’s smiling humour that contradicts all the evidence.

Germain Roesz, August 2018.