Much is left to the observer and as Ashlee states, “this is a true example of what encompassed a piece of modern art. “The playful, enigmatic mixed media works by artist Hideto Imai were quite the welcome challenge for our critic. His works were perceived as “very philosophical;” Ashlee notes that this type of work is evident in many other Japanese artists, in that they are spiritual and not, yet the essence of the underlying meaning of the works come through. The process of the creation of his works is that the artist would buy groceries and then, divide them into categories, such as ice cream, sushi, and other items, and then burn them. The charcoal that remained was then made into ink and this is what he uses in his artwork. This technique, as well as his use of paper folding, is very traditional in Japanese art. The works that he chose to show in this group show “all have a take on modern perspective but also with a very traditional mentality,” as Ashlee states. Titles play a part in how the viewer perceives a piece of artwork, but in this case, the titles are as enigmatic as the works themselves. For instance, the titles ‘Green English’ and ‘Hong Kong Airport Hamburger,’ which the critic was very curious about. She, as well as others, try to make sense of the works based on solely the title, but in the end, it might not hold any significance at all and hold meaning only for the creator. But this is part of the whimsy with Hideto’s works that Ashlee loved, in that these pop-art reflections of the artists mind are introduced to us and we are only seeing one dimension of them. Ashlee wonders, could they be speaking of consumerism? A reflection of society? She felt fire, turbulence, chaos and reflection of the world in his works. Also, as the critic urged, one feels compelled to reach out and touch it, to try to understand it. She felt much energy from his works, with the combining of natural and manufactured elements such as paper, glue and metal, creating texture – hardness and softness, which draws from the constant “push and pull.” All elements seem to co-exist in the piece as they do in everyday life, again, a reflection of society. She compares these works to that of a particular author, Haruki Murakami, in that it’s about what’s “underneath” in that you have a title which contains something specific, ‘hamburger,’ and then for the viewer, you have to look underneath the surface level to try to figure out why that is. At the same time, being the contradictory aspect of the work, she mentioned a quote that she read recently in the New Yorker by historian of Japanese film, Donald Richardson, who said that “the Japanese take the surface seriously, the package is the substance, that is the heart of their sense of beauty” and she found that so fascinating since it relates to Hideto’s work almost perfectly.
In the piece ‘Flashlight Kitchen’, Ashlee takes the use of gold in a very literal sense, being that a flashlight brings light to a space. The critic wonders where that use of gold comes from in him (the artist) and how he came about to choose that color. Does it have a metaphorical or specific meaning to the artist? Or is it that he just happens to like the color gold? The cuts, tears and pencil marks where the paper was cut show a destructive, unkempt quality to the works, similar to that of Pollock, but there is also a control to the chaos.
Also, each work has a street, or graffiti, type element to them, with the use of spray paint in some way in each piece. This adds another element, like in ‘Green English’, where the critic felt a sense of mystery, like the moon in an eclipse. The use of the purple paint adds a coolness factor, like graffiti art sprayed on a fence, which is quite literal, since the paper ‘moon’ is affixed onto wire. It gives a sense of realness but otherworldliness at the same time. We can connect to it but also are confused by it. There seems to be a hidden wisdom throughout Hideto’s works that is yet to be seen, but regardless of this fact, it is still appreciated. Each work also plays on geometric shapes and angles, as in ‘Cake Elementary School,’ Ashlee mentions that mathematics and geometry came to mind, but this may be just due to what the title suggests, with circles, rectangles and squares composed on a sort of grid. There’s something “very specific, beautiful and energetic in how it’s (Hideto’s work) evaluation is, which you don’t see very often.” Much is left to the observer and as Ashlee states, “this is a true example of what encompassed a piece of modern art. “