Tetsuya Ishida – Recalled (1998)

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.

Tetsuya Ishida - Recalled
Tetsuya Ishida – Recalled (1998), acrylic on board

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?

7 Comments Add yours

  1. anmutstreetphoto says:

    Excellent and romains highly topical!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gabriela says:

      Yes, probably even more so today.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Eric Wayne says:

    An amazing artist who died at 31 when he was hit by a train. How is it that some artists who die young manage to create a legacy and immortalize themselves before they go (another is Ana Mendieta, Evan Hesse, of course Vincent). The image you selected is particularly outstanding, especially the baby parts as contents within the packaging. Sure, he had a formula, but a really impressive one. And while he constantly uses himself as fodder for the human cog in the machine, in his art he clearly escaped it. Now, here’s someone’s retrospective I’d really like to see.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Gabriela says:

      I think you could call his death his last performance act. It was either a cruel irony that he died hit by a Japanese symbol of technological advancement or, as some speculate, the very thing that appeals to us in his paintings drove him to suicide.

      I would have loved to see how he depicted us in this information age, where smartphones are deemed to be our extensive memory and AI is on the rise.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Dies at 31, of a possible suicide , hit by a train , paints like this. Damn. Tortured artist legend lives on.
        What a share Gabriela. What is happening in Japan again , is ;something that is in some ways happening in any corporate world. This painting speaks volumes to me.
        Maybe in today’s times, he would have painted individuals burning from inside ( a reference to phone batteries catching fire ) or maybe just human bodies, with eyes magnified ( to reflect our addiction to social media consumption ) Who knows.
        Thanks for this.
        The Japanese artists in many fields ( movies, books ) have fought the rigidity of aggressive technological advances in their own typical way, and the world is richer due to that.
        Have you read this book called , A Woman in Dunes. Damn. It is crazy. Crazy good.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Gabriela says:

          The Japanese have a certain simplicity in their prose which I like, but it’s heavily infused with the supernatural. Haruki Murakami is the only one I have been reading and frankly, I have grown tired of his mysticism in recent years.

          I would love to find artists that further explore our social disconnection… I will keep searching. Usually this is depicted via performance/conceptual art, and not visually.

          Will write down “A Woman in Dunes” to my ever-expanding reading list. 🙂


          1. Not always. I guess. I mean the element of supernatural. Or maybe I am not so well versed.
            Murakami is one trick pony.
            You start reading him , you enjoy that sensory experience and suddenly some years or books down the line you wonder, come on, this is insufferable. :/
            Tokyo Story , this movie is available in Youtube is another simple Japanese classic. No supernatural stuff. Simple and touching.
            Will suggest more when things come to my mind.:)

            Liked by 1 person

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