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Whitehot Recommends: Good Con Man by Tenki Hiramatsu

Tenki Hiramatsu, Good Con Man at Claas Reiss, installation view. Courtesy of Claas Reiss.


Tenki Hiramatsu: Good Con Man

Claas Reiss, London UK

June 23 through July 24, 2021

By WM, July 2021

From the press release:  

‘What makes a good con man? Particularly his ability to construct a convincing illusion without being demystified.

In this regard, the artist Tenki Hiramatsu may be considered to be the good con man himself, creating illusions with his painting to which we as viewers succumb inevitably.

This illusion lies in the supposed (re-)cognition of figurative and pictorial motifs within the works. At Claas Reiss, the selection of works shows several cartoon-like characters wearing top hats. These recurring pictorial elements seem to be references or follow a symbology. But the motifs do not refer to anything, however it appears. Rather than carrying a symbolic meaning, they are formal decisions within the composition of the picture and make us believe to suggest a narrative. 

And yet the artist does not pretend to tell a story. His paintings are created intuitively, without a template or a sketch. Until the end, the process is like an experiment in which Tenki Hiramatsu relinquishes control and allows unexpected things to happen.  Accordingly, the narrative level of the paintings does not arise consciously. The figures form dynamically, born from the brushstroke. Thus the result – the final composition of the picture – is full of surprising discoveries for the painter himself each time.

These discoveries are also made by the viewer, who explores the pictorial landscape and encounters the new and the (supposedly) familiar. There is no prescribed interpretation.  As viewers, we construct the narrative in dialogue with the image, through our own associations and memories.

At this point, the binarity of reality and illusion blurs. The paintings become their own reality, based on a two-dimensional space that can nevertheless open up an infinite depth and a world of its own.

Tenki Hiramatsu, Good Con Man at Claas Reiss, installation view. Courtesy of Claas Reiss. 

Precisely this specific quality answers the relevance of the medium of painting in times of digital image production. For Tenki Hiramatsu, it consists in the illusion of a world created only through painting and not on the basis of an existing logic. Accordingly, one searches for signs of a landscape in vain, as in the work of his painterly pioneers Ken Kiff or Emil Nolde.

What the viewer encounters instead are multi-layered colour fields. Yet the works within the exhibition show a similar colour palette; primarily dingy greens, which in some areas become shades of grey. Although green is generally considered the colour of hope, for Tenki Hiramatsu it represents the colour of strangeness. While green appears natural outside, we find it rather artificial in the context of painting.

Currently, the artist uses many transparent colours to create an exciting dynamic through the application of the layers. For him, the most interesting mixture consists of green, white and a blackish blue tone. The result becomes greyish, almost washed out and murky, creating a gloomy atmosphere.

But rather than daunting, the images captivate the viewer. A certain intimacy emanates from them, a familiarity, despite the strangeness. Firstly, due to the – sometimes staring and sometimes wandering – glances of the figures. Secondly, through the rather small-format pictures. Tenki Hiramatsu paints on paper and wooden panels in order to work more frequently at the table instead of at the easel. This closeness creates the ambivalent tension between intimacy and strangeness that constitutes the special fascination of Tenki Hiramatsu’s work.’

Pia Bendfeld, June 2021 

Pia Bendfeld is a writer, artist, curator and editor at PASSE-AVANT. Most recently, she worked as a curatorial assistant at ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe. She is currently studying Curatorial Studies and Philosophy at Städelschule and Goethe-University Frankfurt, and Fine Arts at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. WM



Whitehot writes about the best art in the world - founded by artist Noah Becker in 2005. 


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