Dissipating reality—Tomotaka Yasui’s female figures
Keisuke Mori
Curator, Chiba City Museum of Art
The distance of sculpture
The expression in the eyes of the female figures draws in the gazes of viewers in front of them. With their erect postures and eyes of glittering gemstones, an atmosphere of calm pervades these women. Made using the hollow dry lacquer technique, which involves applying layers of hemp cloth, and covered with delicate mother-of-pearl, Tomotaka Yasui’s sculptures are linked to time-honored traditional Japanese performing arts and have often been discussed in terms of their craft-like affinity with noh masks, Buddhist statues and dolls. Due to the softness of their forms and the restrained color of the white lacquer, they somehow evoke the warmth of the human body. And yet, due to their well-proportioned left-right symmetry, their frontality and their vague expressions, it is difficult to read their character or emotions. For several years, Yasui experimented with eschewing the use of real people as models. For this reason, it seems that his works are not necessarily devoted to visual reproducibility (though after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, he reaffirmed the importance of standing face-to-face with actual people, and for his latest work, Misty, a real woman served as the model). Whether he is dealing with real or imaginary figures, the problem of reality that the artist confronts concerning the “existence” of human beings fills the work with ambiguity and uncertainty.
For Yasui, sculpture above all demonstrates the difficulty of giving form to one’s own senses. In thinking about this, what needs to be confirmed at the outset is that any study of humans is also directed at the subject in the form of the person doing the gazing. Yasui was born in Belgium, spent his childhood in Israel and eventually moved to Japan with his parents. One suspects this experience meant that, while he was able to assimilate various cultures and climates around the world, each time he moved he had to suspend having a fixed place for the purposes of understanding himself. Perhaps reflecting this special physical sense, Yasui’s female figures also convey the impression, despite the fact that they stand on their own with both legs firmly planted on the ground, that their very existence is continually shifting from place to place.
Grids—intersecting axes
The anguish of realizing as artworks the perceived world is probably demonstrated more clearly than anything else by the complex changes in Yasui’s methods to date. With chemically synthesized resin as his starting point, he has used various combinations of natural materials and techniques, including lacquer, mother-of-pearl, powdered brass and tin, while in his latest work he has experimented with woodcarving using a 3D plotter. In addition to poplar and Japanese cypress, he has also used acrylic cubes as a material, with constant modification continuing in recent years to address the gap between his senses and his forms. As if rejecting fixedness itself, the axes Yasui attaches importance to in order to regulate his constantly wavering self as well as his subjects are the horizontal and the vertical. Through the repeated intersection of these at regular intervals, he generates consecutive squares, or in other words grids. Variations on a range of grids can be detected in Yasui’s works, including the mother-of-pearl embellishments and cuboid forms that serve as the minimum units of his structures and the polygons and pixels invoked in his virtual spaces.
In recent years he has also experimented with expanding his sculptures further into space. An example is the project conducted in collaboration with an architect and a cabinetmaker in an abandoned house in Takamatsu, Kagawa, called Machi ni aru ie to iu chokoku (A house in a town as sculpture). Inside the building, Chokokuka no ie(Sculptor’s house), countless grids cover the floor and the furnished shelving. The space visualized here indicates a stable territory made up of the floor and wall surfaces that come into contact with the body and relates to the countless horizons and vertically towering rock faces and trees that humans have discovered in nature. Like we humans, Yasui’s female figures are also steeped in an uncertain existence in which they can only guarantee their own existence through the stability of such external environments.
Misty is a wood-carved work to which a thin coating of white paint has been applied based on its analogous relationship with the exhibition space. The title is also suggestive of a figure standing quietly in a misty place with poor visibility, reminding us of situations in which it is difficult to definitely objectify things. In creating the work, Yasui first 3D scanned a woman using specialist equipment before using software to revise at the data level such details as the hair and eyes. The various body parts were then carved out of Japanese cypress wood using a 3D plotter, and these were joined together and painted by the artist. Here, with the introduction of equipment such as the 3D scanner and 3D plotter, Yasui has in mind the complete removal of the artist’s own hands from the creative process. This was a new methodology for the purposes of better placing ambiguous “existence” between “presence” and “absence.” In this creative method, the automation of machinery using digital data becomes an important element of the work, but the clothing that covers the body as if to erase the individual characteristics of the model such as its chest, torso and hands assumes a particularly strong presence.
Clothing = interface
This is not the first time the artist has designed clothing so light it seems as if the model is enveloped in air. It would seem that this interest in clothing was influenced in no small way by Yasui’s mother, who was a textile pattern maker. For example, in the numerous fashion magazines such as Vogue that Yasui saw while growing up, it is the clothing that is imbued with both aesthetic and commercial value. This reversal of the relative positions of clothing and the model’s body would appear to correlate with the dilution of physicality and the foregrounding of the clothing seen in Yasui’s female figures. Here, however, we should probably pay attention to the fact that the clothes covering the models occupy the position closest to the artist’s physical senses. Yasui asserts that for humans, clothing itself is “the first layer of skin.” Hidden in the background of this assertion is a penetrating critical spirit with respect to the view of sculpture in Japan since modern times, which reflected on the origins of life in the depths of the human body and pursued the nude as the very ideal of sculpture.
Clothes, which are located on the outermost position with respect to the body inside in order to protect or adorn it, become a contact surface for the feelings and physical senses such as sight and touch directed at the object. Another term for this is an “interface.” Yasui’s sculptures truly take as their subject the artist, the figure in front of him and the entirety of the “misty” space the envelopes them both, with this surface as a boundary. Another artist who took up as a subject this orientation to the space surrounding the subject and attempted to sculpt the “distance” between the artist and their model was Alberto Giacometti. As the work of someone who does not rely solely on visual reproduction, Yasui’s sculptures come close to the small, slender figures of Giacometti, who tried to express the infinite distance between himself and his models, and deviated considerably from reproducibility. At the same time, there is a decisive difference that separates the two. They are both tactile and visual, but in contrast to the horizontality of the awareness Giacometti directs at the models sitting in front of him, Yasui’s sculptures demand an almost dermal perception that involves the entire surface of the body. But exactly what kind of subject is the mysterious “dissipating existence” that is generated through such perception?
The first clue to answering this can probably be found in the mother-of-pearl, gemstones and lacquer Yasui has used as materials in the past. While they make up the contours of the surface, the luster of the mother-of-pearl in which shells are elaborately shaped and the brilliance of the gemstones incorporate multi-directional and indeterminate qualities that, rather than establishing distinct boundaries, dissipate outwards. In the case of the lacquer, or the sap included in the hemp cloth, too, we should pay attention not only to the reflections of the glossy luster, but to the very chemical reaction related to molecules in the atmosphere during the process whereby it dries over a long period of time.
Surfaces as cave paintings
Isamu Wakabayashi is another sculptor who dealt with the relationship in which the self and the subject are separate yet connected in the space in which they exist. In his 1982 essay “Sakaigawa no hanran” (Flooding of the Sakai River), he wrote as follows about an event he experiences one day when it was raining.
Due to the rain, the surfaces alone of the people and buses I was looking at were emphasized. Moreover, these surfaces acquired density, rendering ambiguous the shapes of the people and buses. In addition to this, the sheets of rain falling between myself and these people and buses made me feel connected to them while rendering the subjects even more indistinct. (1)
In other words, due to the natural phenomenon of rain, Wakabayashi’s attention was drawn to the “ambiguous” surfaces of himself and his subjects, and he further discovered that in space filled completely with water drops, both were related to each other as a “connection.” The question of consciousness that Wakabayashi continued to pursue throughout his lifetime is in fact deeply rooted in his experiences of encountering Paleolithic cave paintings in Europe, and the vast deserts and remains of ancient civilizations in Egypt in the 1970s. The sensation of discovering surfaces of the earth that had accumulated time well in excess of a human life in the form of the traces of lines etched in wall paintings in caves or geological formations, and of being drawn to the “density” hidden behind his subjects, became an indispensable element in Wakabayashi’s subsequent practice. In the ambiguity of contours and of presence observable in Misty, I get a strong sense of an orientation to density that is of the same quality as Wakabayashi’s.
Under the conditions of contemporary society, in which our awareness of “the present” is unceasingly covered in excessive information, Yasui practices with his sculptural work a resistance to this time that passes at an increasing tempo and to this metamorphosing space. As part of this, he superimposes on the surfaces of his sculptures the density of time and space as the “depth” that was once perceived together with humidity and light in various places around the world. The world itself fills these thin surfaces and furthermore forms wide, deep, boundless presences. Perhaps the figures Yasui creates in his search for the depths of a perspective aimed at this overwhelming reality trigger in us a nostalgic feeling like a landscape we have seen somewhere before. However, for viewers to venture further than this is by no means an easy thing. Because, just as cave wall paintings and geological formations were for Wakabayashi, the surface characteristics of the clothes of the female figures at once assume the role of an interface while possessing qualities that anyone can read. At the very moment one tries to venture further into its depths, this surface can turn into a “barrier” to one’s senses. In the context of Yasui’s sincere and unceasing practice, these female figures that have been given form as “mist” stand quietly in the distance in an indistinct place that fills everlasting time and space.
1. Isamu Wakabayashi, “Sakaigawa no hanran” (Flooding of the Sakai River), I.W. Wakabayashi Isamu noto (I.W. Isamu Wakabayashi notes) (Tokyo: Shoshi Yamada, 2004), pp. 182–83.


若林奮「境川の氾濫」『I.W 若林奮ノート』書肆山田、2004年、pp.182−183

Eriko Ogata Curator, Takamatsu City Museum of Art
Tomotaka Yasui explores the theme of "coexistence between humans and nature," primarily using human figures to express the "atmosphere born when people stand still." From 2001 to 2017, he worked on lacquer sculptures, but since 2019, he has been creating wood carvings using 3D digital technology.
The "atmosphere" enveloping humans—consisting of "air, light, memories, premonitions, past and future, humans and nature, self and others, and various other relationships, is like the time that emerges while entangled in many factors," and it is an invisible and constantly fluctuating entity. The lacquer used in lacquer sculptures is refined sap extracted from the trunk of the lacquer tree, and it hardens through a reaction (oxidative polymerization) with oxygen in the air. By employing such unseen natural principles, Yasui has attempted to materialize invisible entities. However, feeling that this method cannot reconcile the difference between the perceived "atmosphere" and the form, Yasui came to recognize that the "atmosphere" is fundamentally "an ambiguous existence that cannot be fully grasped." Against this background, Yasui attempted to reproduce the ambiguous existence relying on his own senses through an objective method using inorganic materials. In works like "Misty" and the new piece "Next," he digitizes female models using 3D scanning and carves out various parts of the body from blocks of wood measuring 5 centimeters on each side using a 3D plotter.
When in an upright posture, the body subtly sways to maintain balance. Due to the changing boundary between the subject and the space, the machinery often makes errors during scanning and requires repeated corrections. The formations displayed on the monitor consist of rows and columns of light points, or pixels, that have been digitized. Yasui claims that the virtual space, where mass and gravity do not exist, approximates his own sensation of "existing yet not existing, something that cannot be grasped even when attempted." Finally, while recalling the "atmosphere" of the subject, Yasui carves, assembles, and paints the sculptures with his own hands. Unlike lacquer sculptures colored as observed, the wooden sculptures are monochromatically painted white, seeming to represent the afterimage retained in consciousness after seeing a person, the memory preserved in consciousness itself.
To define such an ambiguous existence, Yasui emphasizes the relationship between the direction of gravity, the "vertical," and its perpendicular direction, the "horizontal," as the axis of space, frequently using squares—grids that appear when they intersect at regular intervals. For example, the designs of mother-of-pearl inlay in "sign" and "pillar of light," the pixels of virtual space referenced in "Misty" and "Next," and even the clothing worn by the subject can be observed. Clothing is woven with warp (vertical) and weft (horizontal) threads, serving as the interface for the subject's consciousness, visual sense, and tactile sensation, and also as the boundary between the subject and the space. In "Next," a young woman wears a large piece of fabric from her neck to above her knees, and the folds spread radially following gravity. Compared to "Misty," where the figure is slender and the presence of clothing is more pronounced, this indicates that the role of clothing as a clue to consciousness towards the subject has increased, suggesting further development in the future.
Having connections to Kagawa, Yasui established the atelier "Sculptor's House" near Busshozan-cho, Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture. Feeling that the urban landscape of Tokyo, his base of activity, was gradually becoming uniform, he thought about contemplating his works in different spaces, which became the impetus for this decision. Yasui sees the atelier not only as a place for conception but also as a sculpture itself. The building, constructed with "vertical" and "horizontal" as the basis according to human life, can be considered an extension of the human body. When substituting human figures with buildings, the "atmosphere" of the town, consisting of grasses, flowers, and trees (vertical), and the horizon extending from there (horizontal), spreads out. In this way, Yasui's consciousness expands from the relationship between humans and space— "inside" to the relationship between architecture, natural objects, and space— "outside."
In this exhibition, within the "inside" of the venue, viewers observe human figures and the video work "Me and the Garden, House and Town, You and Something." This work records the view from the backyard of the atelier, reflecting the countryside beyond the tangerine and camellia trees being filled in due to land development. Using the video as a catalyst, visitors arrive at the "Sculptor's House," the "outside," and observe the changing townscape, possibly following a path similar to Tokyo. Like the artist, they may have experienced an expansion of consciousness towards things and events inherent in space.
Eriko Ogata Curator, Takamatsu City Museum of Art
Quoted from: Tomoki Yasui "Chisiki Tachimu Kuki / Silence," Sculpture Forest Arts and Culture Foundation, Sculpture Forest Museum, 2014, p.25. Keisuke Mori, "Kissansuru Reality — Hōi Tomoki no Josei Zō ni Tsuite," "Misty," void+, 2019, p.2.

 人が纏う〈空気感〉―それは「空気と光、記憶と予感、過去と未来、人と自然、自己と他者など、多くの関係が絡みながら生まれる時間のようなもので 」、不可視で絶えず揺れ動くものであるだろう。乾漆像で用いられた漆は、ウルシの木の幹から採取した樹液を精製したものであり、分子が空気中の酸素と反応(酸化重合)し硬化する。このような目に見えない自然の摂理を用いることで、保井は目視できない存在を実体化しようと試みてきた。しかし、この手法では意識にある〈空気感〉と造形の差異を解消できないと感じ、ひいては〈空気感〉は「そもそも完全に掴むことのできない茫洋とした存在」であると認識を改めたという。上記を背景として、保井は自身の感覚に依拠する曖昧な存在を、無機物による客観的な方法で再現しようと試みた。《Misty》や新作《Next》ではモデルとなる女性を3Dスキャンでデータ化し、5センチ角の木材を組んだ塊から3Dプロッタで身体の各部位を彫り出している。
そのような茫漠とした存在を規定するため、保井は空間の基軸として重力の働く方向〈垂直〉とそれに直交する方向〈水平〉の関係性を重視し、それらが等間隔に交差すると表れる四角形―格子を作品に多用している。例えば、《sign》や《pillar of light》における螺鈿の意匠、《Misty》や《Next》に援用された仮想空間のピクセル、さらには、対象の着用する衣服そのものからも見てとれる。衣服は経糸〈垂直〉と緯糸〈水平〉で織りあげられ、「対象へと向けられた意識や、視覚、触覚といった身体感覚にとっての接触面 」、対象と空間の境界線でもある。《next》では、若い女性が1枚の大きな布を首から膝上まで纏っており、襞は重力に従い放射線状に広がっている。《Misty》と比較したとき、体躯が希薄となり衣服の存在感が増しているのは、対象に対する意識の手がかりとして役割が高まっている証拠であり、今後更なる発展を予感させる。
  『保井智貴 佇む空気/silence』彫刻の森芸術文化財団 彫刻の森美術館、2014年、p.25.

Standing erect – Yasui Tomotaka’s Female Figures
Takeshi Ishizaki
Curator, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art
Standing female figures made from dried lacquer. Aside from his smaller works and some seated figures, this is the main characteristic of Yasui Tomotaka’s work. But at the same time, this explanation also reveals the extent to which this is distinctive of Yasui’s work as sculpture.
 At first glance these figures, which stand in an upright position in relation to the ground, can be understood to embody the essence of sculpture as a resistance of gravity. However, in the history of sculpture, almost no works can be found that assume such an erect and immobile posture. What comes directly to mind are the Kouroi, the term given to Greek sculptures of the Archaic period that depict nude male youths; and the Korai, statues dating from the same period that represent clothed female figures. In either case, it is speculated that they are offerings to gods, or sculptures that were enshrined in the tombs of the departed, but in respect to the extended left leg of the Kouroi, the figures are not, in the strictest sense of the term, standing erect. While the spacing between the legs is only slight, even this is a significant distinction between pause and motion. The Korai, on the other hand, are seen for the most part holding something in their hands, a posture that doesn’t signify a figure standing to attention. Once we reach the Classic period that follows the Archaic Period, figures standing in contrapposto, a term used to describe a pose where the weight of the body is placed on one leg, becomes the norm in expressions of the human figure. In other words, an erect posture essentially came to be the antithesis of the standard.
 Giacometti is arguably the first figure to clearly break away from this long-enduring standard. As a result of cutting away superfluous elements to the utmost limit, his human figures are simplified to the point where they resemble stakes, the harshness of existence suspended within the tall, elongated material forms. However, while being self-contradictory, it is precisely because there is a hidden manipulation of the axis within the violent modeling, discernible in the slight tilt of the neck, or difference in height between the left and right breasts, that an extremely subtle control of the posture exists. On the other hand, if we turn our eyes to Japanese Buddhist sculpture, while Buddhist statues up to the Asuka period basically assume an erect posture when seen from the front (with the exception of the hands), statues from the Hakuho period steadily begin to deviate from left-right symmetry, and contortions in the body start to be incorporated.
 When looking back at the history of sculpture in this way, it is possible to say that the erect posture Yasui consistently adopts is a simple and modest expression typical of a time before standards in sculpture were established both in the West and in Japan. Observed anew after such reflection, Yasui’s works are not concerned with the minimizing of volume as with Giacometti, but are sculpted forms that connect with tangible human figures whose erect posture— uncommon both in the history of sculpture and in daily life in general—gives his female figures a decisiveness that rejects artifice.
 What I read in these works by Yasui is a sense of transcending a certain kind of period. Imagine, for example, the scene of people in a crowd who, unable to advance even one step, stand unmoving. If, among the hasting crowd, there were someone looking on steadily at this event, whether or not it would leave a strange impression, the scene in itself would unquestionably be suffused with a powerful message: that while one’s existence is asserted through the act of standing, there is also a necessity to stand still and reconsider.
 Yasui uses lacquer, a material that slowly transforms, in order to insert his work in a time axis different from that of the real world, but this leads it to a universality not bound to “now, here”. Un-retrievable in any specific period, and with bodies wrapped in garments that can be said to originate from the cosmos, his figures continue to stand silently in the same spot, as if trying to tell us something.


Tomotaka Yasui:
What the Never-Closing Eyes Continue to See Forever
Hitoshi Nakano
Curator, Kanagawa Arts Foundation
Uguisu no / mi wo sakasama ni / hatsune kana
Its first note; / The uguisu / Is upside-down.
Kikaku Takarai
(Transl.: R. H. Blyth, HAIKU vol. II Spring, Hokuseido, 1950, p.178.)
Frozen with his eyes left wide-open, a boy spends two thousand years in the cockpit of a tiny plane that sank in the sea. What is more, during that time, mankind ceased to exist. This is a scene from A. I. Artificial Intelligence(released in June 2001), a film directed by Steven Spielberg, which portrays the existence and relation between human beings and robots on the future earth. The young Haley Joel Osment’s fine performance as David, the robot boy, became the topic of conversation for a while.
       I quoted a haiku (Japanese poem) by Kikaku Takarai, who is known as one of the ten great disciples of the haiku poet Basho Matsuo at the beginning of this essay. This might ring a bell for those of you who are familiar with Japanese films of the 1970s. This poem appears in Gokumonto (The Devil’s Island), a novel and film by Seishi Yokomizo (published in 1971, the film directed by Kon Ichikawa in 1977) based on the murders of three sisters and depicting complex patterns of human relationships in the society before and after the Pacific War. The look of one of the slain sisters, Hanako, who had her legs tied up with a sash and was hung upside down from an old plum tree in the precincts of a temple, with her eyes wide-open had a horrifying impact. The glaringly vivid look of the murdered girl I saw as a schoolboy is still registered in my memory.
     With the eyes of a robot and a dead person as the preface to this text, let us examine the world induced by the “eyes” in Tomotaka Yasui’s three-dimensional works.
     The first works by Yasui I saw were calm and Recalling Spring, which were on show at the exhibition, Meguro Addresses: Artists in Urban Life, held at Meguro Museum of Art, Tokyo in 2012. While many of the exhibits were two-dimensional works exhibited on the walls by artists such as Tomoki Imai, Yukiko Suto, and Shimon Minamikawa, Yasui’s three- dimensional works were very eye-catching in the gallery.
     Calm consists of two female statues. Slender deep green legs stretch down to the floor and the skin-colored torsos show a refreshing view of the hills and fields where the green legs seem to have advanced and become leaves of plants. And leaves made of mother-of-pearl flutter gently in the upper part of the body trying to fade into the green leaves. This is an aspect of nature set within the composition of a human body. The two women, who could be regarded nature itself, gaze quietly and diffidently at the outside world. Look at their “eyes” gazing at the outside world. The most well-known
sculptures made as a pair in Japan would be the Kongorikishi (guardian statues) at Todaiji in Nara. To name another pair by the same sculptor, Unkei, who was considered the greatest sculptor of Buddhist statues in the Kamakura period, there are the wooden statues of the brothers Mujaku and Seshin, which are said to be his chefs-d’oeuvre. The wrestlers’ eyes open wide in a glare to protect Buddha from devils or evil spirits and the limpid eyes of the venerable priests who have mastered Buddhist doctrines and are staring fixedly at the “truth”—Many sculptors have hitherto worked on representation of the human body and it appears extremely difficult to capture the expression of the eyes, which contain factors that represent everything including a person’s emotion, individuality, and personal history.
     In studies and interviews with the artist, the works by Tomotaka Yasui have hitherto been discussed mainly from the three points of their atmosphere or impression, technique, and material with reference to their
“tranquility,” “serenity,” “flow of time,” “aerial feel,” and “kanshitsu (dry lacquer),” “urushi (lacquer),” or “mother-of-pearl.” In other words, his works do not approach us by means of an intentional, artificial act aiming at a certain purpose. Instead, they exist in that space as if they were there naturally and confront us gently as if blending together. I cannot help feeling that the tender expression, which might be called the Yasui style, of the eyes he creates is significantly involved in this.
     Three years after my first meeting with Yasui, in May 2015, he and I attempted an exhibition of his works for the first time at Kanagawa Arts Theatre (KAAT). We planned an exhibition of four works, one in the Middle Studio, two in the ground floor open space in the Atrium, and one in the corridor in the upper part of the vast Atrium which connects the Main Hall and the Large Studio on the sixth floor. As the title Totsuzen (Sudden) Museum 2015 suggests, Yasui’s works emerged abruptly in a location which was not a White Cube facility to exhibit art.
     What did David in A. I. continue to look at for 2,000 long years with those frozen eyes? What did the three sisters in Gokumonto see just before or after their death? When we look at the three-dimensional works created by Yasui, beyond where the eyes are looking, there is an insecure, unclear world in which neither time nor air are flowing. Surely I am not the only one that feels as if I am floating in that mysterious world (space).
     The space I was given to curate an exhibition of Yasui’s works was a theatre, a facility which is not normally accustomed to the visual arts. The reason I wanted to insert (display) Yasui’s works there was that I felt an impulse to put two contradictory elements against one another. Making free use of a variety of machines and human techniques, the world on stage presents concrete images in which day alternates with night, the ocean and gigantic mountains are reproduced, and miscellaneous scenes from the interior of a modest commoner’s house to the solemnly celestial realms extending above the clouds are created. In contrast, Tomotaka Yasui’s world exists faintly in nature, inducing an uncertain impression.
     The eyes of the robots, the dead, and Tomotaka Yasui’s works— what are those eyes staring at? While thinking about the answer to this question, we, the viewers, fall into the impression we get after having read Yabu no naka (In a Grove) by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Who is the culprit? What is the truth? Despite being unable to ascertain the facts, we sense romanticism and are fascinated by the act of continuing in search of the truth.​​​​​​​

鶯の身を逆さまに初音かな    宝井其角

 凍りついた少年は、眼(まなこ)を見開いたまま、海に沈んだ小さな飛行機の操縦席で 2000 年もの年月を過ごす。しかも、その間に人類は滅亡していた。 このシーンは、未来の地球での人間とロボットの存在や関わりを描いた スティーブン・スピルバーグ監督作品《A.I アーティフィカル・インテリ ジェンス》(2001 年 6 月公開)の 一コマである。ロボットの子どもデイビッ トを演じたのは、幼少のハーレイ・ジョエル・オスメントでその好演が一 時話題になった。
 冒頭に、俳人松尾芭蕉の 10 人の弟子、蕉門十哲の 一人として知られる、 宝井其角の俳句を引用した。1970年代の日本映画に詳しい方は、ピンと くる方もいよう。3 人姉妹の殺人事件を題材に太平洋戦争前後の社会を 背景とした複雑な人間模様が書かれた横溝正史の小説・映画《獄門島》(1971 年発行、映画は、1977 年市川菎監督版による)にこの句は、登場 する。殺害された姉妹の一人花子が、寺の境内の梅の古木に足を帯で縛 られ逆さまに吊るされ、かっと目を見開いている形相は、恐ろしく迫力が ある。小学生であった筆者は、殺された娘の鮮烈な目の表情を今も記憶 に止めている。
 ロボットと死者の目をこのテキストの前置きとして、保井智貴の立体作 品にある「目」から導かれる世界を検証してみよう。
  筆者が初めて拝見した保井くんの作品は、目黒区美術館で開催された「メグロアドレス—都会に生きる作家—」展(2012 年)に出品された《calm》、 《繰り返して春》だ。今井智己、須藤由希子、南川史門など壁面に展示さ れている平面作品が多いなかで、保井くんの立体の作品は展示室でとても目を引く存在であった。
  2 体の女性像をもって一つの作品となる《calm》。深い緑の足がすらり と床まで伸び、肌色の上半身は、その緑が進出したように植物の葉とな り野山の清々しい光景を映し出している。そして、螺鈿で作られた葉が ふわりと身体の上を舞って、緑の葉と溶け合おうとしている。人体の構 図の中にある自然の姿。自らが自然そのものともいえる二人の女性は静 かに、慎ましやかに外界を見つめている。その外界をみつめている彼女 たちの「目」。彫刻作品として我が国の代表とも言える2体で一対をなす 作品としては奈良、東大寺の《金剛力士像》がつとに知られている。そし て、同じ作者で鎌倉時代、当代随一と言われた仏師運慶がその生涯におい て 頂 点 を 極 め た と 言 わ れ る 傑 作 《 無 著 》、《 世 親 》 の 師 弟 の 木 像 も あ る 。 仏を邪鬼、悪霊から守るべくかっと見開いた力士像の目、そして、仏教 の教義を極め「真理」を見据えている透き通った高僧の目。これまで多く の彫刻家が人体の表現に取り組むなかで、人の感情、個性、経歴など全 てを表す要素を持つ目の表情は極めて難しいと考えられる。
 保井智貴くんの作品についてこれまでの論考や作家へのインタビュー では、「静謐」、「静けさ」、「時の流れ」、「空気感」、そして「乾漆」、「漆」、「螺鈿」という作品の雰囲気と印象、技法、素材の3つが主に語られてい る。つまり、ある目的に向かって働きかける意図的、人口的という行為か ら繋がっていくものではなく、彼の作品は展示されるその空間に自然にあ るかのように存在し、そこにいる鑑賞者であるわれわれと緩やかに対峙 し溶け合うようなものなのだ。そこにも、保井スタイルと言ってよいだろ うか、柔らかな彼が創り出す目の表情が大きく関わっているように感じて ならない。
 保井くんの作品と初対面から 3 年後、2015 年 5月、KAAT 神奈川芸術 劇場で作家と筆者は作品を初めて展示を試みた。中スタジオの中に一点、 アトリウムの1階広場に2点、そして広大なアトリウムの中にあり6階の ホールスタジオ間を結ぶ渡り廊下に 1 点、計 4 点の展示となり、この展覧 会「突然ミュージアム 2015」というタイトルが示す通り、ホワイトキュー ブという美術展示施設ではない場所に、突然として保井の作品が出現し たものであった。
 《A.I 》のデイビットは、2000 年もの間、凍りついた目で何を見続けてき たのか。死の直前あるいは死後、《獄門島》に登場する3姉妹は何を目に したのか。われわれは、保井智貴の手になる立体作品を鑑賞する際、そ の目が見つめる先に、不確かで不透明で、時間や空気の流れもない世界 があり、われわれはその不思議な世界(空間)に浮遊しているかのように 感じるのは、筆者だけではないであろう。
  筆者が初めて保井くんのキュレーションをするにあたり与えられた劇 場という一般的に美術には馴染みのない施設と空間。そこに保井くんの 作品を挿入(展示)したかったのは、昼と夜を交互にする、大海や巨大 な山を再現する、慎ましい庶民の家の室内から雲の上に広がる荘厳な天 上界までを作り出すなど、様々な機械、人の技術を駆使することにより、 具体的に示される舞台上の世界と、自然のなかで朧げであり、不確実な 印象を導く保井智貴の世界という、相反する二つの要素をぶつけてみた かったからだ。
 ロボット、死者そして保井智貴の作品の目。その目が見つめるものは、 何なのか。その答えを考える時、鑑賞者であるわれわれは、芥川龍之介 の《藪の中》を読んだ後の印象に陥る。犯人は誰か、真実は何か。われわ れは、それらの事実が解き明かされないまま、それを探し続けるという われわれの行為(予測)にロマンを感じ、魅了されるからなのだ。