His art captured what it meant coming of age in a highly industrial society, which was more concerned with its economic gains than with its own humanity. Tetsuya Ishida’s surreal paintings depict the dehumanization of the Japanese people, turned into machines, smothered and constricted by the high expectations imposed upon them by a rigid culture.
Largely autobiographical, Ishida’s art inspiration stemmed mostly from his own experience and frustration, starting with his disappointment in the educational system that favored logic over creativity and crushed one’s individuality. In fact, you might notice that the people he shows in his nightmarish paintings all look the same – it’s his own self-portrait, repeated over and over again, the only way he found fit to conserve his self among a very collective society.
In Recalled (1998), it’s Ishida’s self that is being dismembered like a mass-produced item that failed to serve its purpose. The factory worker assessing the body is also a self-portrait, as well as the two young men witnessing the scene. The box in which the body lies reminds us of a coffin and we might be otherwise observing a funeral scene.
The painting is clearly a critique of the soul-crushing work culture that treats people like commodities, but I think it has yet another appeal to it, confirming the universality of our insecurities: how many of us have never felt broken at one point or another in our lives?