SHAMAL POLO CATALOG OF 1900, TURIN – OCTOBER 2018
Akira Zakamoto composes astonished and silent snapshots, where the protagonists are the children who observe what men have done: they play war, they delight in the massacre. Here, then, between the photographic reality, the Japanese manga and the daily horror, to stage war operations that will invalidate the innocent childhood forced to follow what is happening as a defenseless spectator. Games are replaced by rubble, wonder and laughter by horror, closed in boxes carpeted without colors and light, the children look at us and ask silently why we are so violent
ZAKAMOTO UN AVERTISSEUR – TRANSCRIPTION OF THE CRITICAL VIDEO
Akira Zakamoto in my opinion has all the credentials to consider himself a Japanese artist, for a very simple reason: when he was a child he had a healthy mania, that of dedicating himself at any time of the day to the reading of Japanese comics. This, for him, was initially the experience of the child reading stories of completely surreal heroes, of exciting metaphors. Then, when the time for professional choice came, he decided to become a painter, and he became a painter by choice, not at the level by a cold professional vocation. He doesn’t stumble on any academy of fine arts, but he studies communication, that is the relationship between advertising and the object. When he leaves this absolutely persuasive profession too, Zakamoto does not forget his childhood, his childhood linked to manga, the Japanese comics that for Hugo Pratt were literary images. Zakamoto is a painter who owes everything to the past, to the dream, but he also had a lesson from this drawn literature: the sense of warriors and heroism, which he revisits in a key of justice and disdain. His compositions are anything but elegiac, whose inner solidity of Zakamoto must be appreciated, this allows him to consider men and things in their condition of truth. For our painter, is the representation of the hurricane a disturbance of the spirit? On the contrary, he knows how to grasp the metaphor as a warning message. For him, painting is the persuasive and cultured medium as communication of the daily mystification of reality. His inner solidity in this case does not allow him to remain swallowed up in the sea of lies. Constantly engaged in disturbing issues of our time, his attentive awareness as an artist and guided towards a path of merciless representations. His are images expressed in an often ironic, amused and amusing key, on other occasions also hallucinating. In each thematic event Akira Zakamoto adheres to his profession as a painter and chronicler of his time. In fact, his story is that of an apocalypse that is functional to remove the veil from the present and then be able to build a new future in a new revelation, considered heavenly. It would not be a force to declare that Akira Zakamoto is the heir of the socialist realism that moved in Italy in a span of time from 1946 to 1970 by artists already in that period on the crest of the wave of criticism and of the market and that at the same time they managed to perform allegories on the class struggle and on the youth struggle of 1968 made by young bourgeois who became anti-bourgeois. Akira Zakamoto is instead a talented painter who is anything but realistic, more surreal than ever. He is a persuasive inventor of metaphors able to reconcile the elegance of the forms with the content, often willingly disturbing. The pictorial execution is always impeccable, Zakamoto plays on the shades, on the chromatic counterpoints, on the delicacy of the passages and, for him, painting is as for the musical composer to create harmony and not disharmony, and disharmony is what he notices outside the world, here lies his verifiable complaint in his recent works, in the cycle of 2015, absolutely important on the Italian pictorial scene, which today does not give us contents but aesthetic constructions for houses that need economic status symbols. In a detailed series of surreal paintings Zakamoto denounces how tortured our planet is, he tackles the theme in a visionary representation of a humanity without landings and metaphorical on the level of ecological destruction. Zakamoto has on its side the situation created in the cities of Venice and Marghera with the following intervention of the judiciary. In these works in which he manages to bring Venice to a symbolic level for global environmental destruction and misdeeds, Zakamoto is so refined as to manage the lagoon city at the level of the pieces that make us indignant at our and your indifference. What is surprising is still having a painter who works on paintings to give a message and at the same time is also a writer who spends his time traveling to write. The author favors telluric visions and, at the same time, curious fact, takes Venice with the expressive tranquility of a painter of landscape tradition or urban architecture, he is here playing in a cultured and subtle way like all the intellectuals of the brush who do not discount when they sink their blade into annoying truths. His paintings are not visually annoying, apparently they are pleasant, in decor, but the difference between Zakamoto and an artist of the poor art of the ‘68, is that the artists of that years used curious, unusual materials such as the shit of Manzoni and the bourgeoisie overpaid them even if the works had been designed not to be sold, , while Zakamoto plays another game, much more refined, offers the cultured, participant bourgeoisie his message that hanging on the walls can be pleasantly decorative and, if observed in depth, can give an universal consciousness, not a social one. The French novelist Andrè Gide called Zakamoto an “avertisseur”, his works are in fact a constant warning.
FROM THE ASHES OF THE PAST, THE RESOURCES OF THE FUTURE
Akira Zakamoto. Industrial center of Porto Marghera. The scenario identified by the Turin painter for the canvases created for this exhibition is emblematic. A non-random choice – full with deep meanings – that leaves very little room for interpretative doubts. The birth and development of Porto Marghera dates back to 1917, when the Venetian businessman Volpi obtained the financial management of the project for the construction of the industrial port from the Ministry of Public Works. In fifty years the industrial zone has tripled, and from a production inherent in the shipbuilding industry it becomes the driving force of the petrochemical sector. The economic boom increases production, and together with it, the problems related to air pollution, lagoon waters and the serious and documented consequences on the health of workers multiply. It’s the scene of large corporate mergers, battles and union protests, and with the crisis in the petrochemical sector Marghera starts to fall back on itself again. The factories are gradually abandoned, during the wait of a redevelopment and reclamation project in the area. And it is precisely at this moment that, under leaden skies saturated with pollution and threatening pillars of smoke, the children of Zakamoto arrive at great strides. Let’s forget the blond cupids of the iconography of the past, because Akira’s aren’t just any children. They are giants, and not only in stature, who with their now severe, now threatening gaze, destroy factory chimneys and skeletons. And, looking straight at us, they accuse us. It is difficult to turn away to avoid their eyes, because in front of them we are all responsible for the environmental and social massacre that over the course of a century we have managed to create. The iconographic methods chosen by the artist to deal with the issue of work are interesting, as they are new. In these pictorial pages, this latter is evoked exclusively by the buildings that have hosted it over the course of a century, just as the presence of the workers, that is implied but never explicit. Also in this context Zakamoto confirms himself as a realist painter who, however, does not intentionally respect the canons of this kind of painting. Akira does not openly scream out her denunciation of contemporary society, but sublimates it and, by sublimating it, indirectly condemns it. These are works of strong and immediate visual impact, in which the dark and rough tones play with a happy chromatic counterpoint, with the reds of the children’s shirts, which significantly recall the sheet metal of the factories. Looking at these canvases, we realize that everything is exactly in the right place, there is nothing too much or that disturbs the view, no superfluous descriptivism, aimed only at winking the observer and filling the space. As always, the artist manages to expertly dose absences and presences, loading them with meaning. But now let’s try to change our point of view and look at these pictorial compositions from a different angle. We realize that nothing is actually completely finished and that there is a glimmer of hope: the heavy and ashen skies leave room for remnants of blue that open the view on a future that can and must be different. If Zakamoto hadn’t wanted to give us a chance for redemption, he would have let only the profiles of industrial buildings speak. But here the real protagonists are the children who, by assumption, are the promise and hope of the future. They are the ones who, mercilessly destroying the past, offer us the opportunity to build the foundations for a different and better tomorrow. Therefore, Porto Marghera is nothing but the emblem of a century that has radically changed the economy and society, often trampling on human rights and individuals. The child who looks at us with a mocking smile in the work The end of the work is actually the starting point from which to start again. Because every end always presupposes a new beginning.
ON THE SHOULDERS OF THE GIANTS
The world seen by Akira Zakamoto. In artists alone it is known that adult life is the natural continuation of childhood, which is why it is said that artists are great children. Alberto Savinio: Of the first meeting with Akira Zakamoto I undoubtedly remember my ill-concealed attempt to see on his face some reminiscence of Eastern physiognomy: nothing done, Akira is not Japanese, nor does he have ancestors from the land of the rising sun in his family tree. After reading his biography, which tells about him kidnapped by extraterrestrials, I asked myself with some curiosity what kind of painting he could do. I often try to understand after knowing an artist, his type of painting. Many children, caught in their most natural expressions, but also and above all in the most incredible ones. No, I would not have expected Akira to paint, not only, but mainly, children. Childhood lives within and beside each of us, despite being a dimension, the only one, from which we are all, irremediably, excluded. It is a multifaceted universe, fascinating, but at the same time unknown and mysterious. It has been soliciting the attention and creativity of philosophers, poets, writers and artists for centuries, it is a journey to rebours that few can resist, and that each of us, in different forms, at least once in a lifetime has tried to undertake. Perhaps because it represents, at the same time, our past and our possible future. Charming, without a doubt. Disturbing, no doubt. The reality is that childhood seen from afar that is always tinged with a feeling of intense melancholy, because it is the lost world, and above all represents a unique and unrepeatable way of feeling, seeing, touching, of which adulthood has lost direct knowledge. We envy the children for the amazement with which they look at things, with which they try to investigate the mystery of life. Naive? No, far from it. And Zakamoto’s canvases prove it. Let’s forget the blonde heads and the delicious shapes of the cupids. Akira’s children are real giants – not only in their stature – as custodians and bearers of an ancient and at the same time still evolving wisdom. We, adults, are the dwarves on the shoulders of these giant children, and climbing on them we have the opportunity to look beyond. Beyond the visible, beyond the tangible. Beyond all that binds us and obliges us to the present. However, let us not be fooled by Zakamoto’s canvases. Because, in spite of their constructive essentiality, they are carriers of messages that are not immediately and easily decoded. And by essentiality I mean the clean and linear balance that dominates each pictorial page. Observing one of his works, we are not slow to realize that everything is exactly in the right place, that there is nothing futile or that disturbs the view, there are no useless and superfluous descriptivisms, aimed only at filling the space. Absences and presences are expertly dosed by the hand of an artist who, in my opinion, is not interested in pleasure at all costs. Akira has assimilated the history of twentieth century art and, at the same time, he seems to have made it a clean slate. His works do not have a past – and therefore it is useless to look for quotes and connections with it – but they have a present that lives and shouts arrogant in every single detail. We therefore consider Zakamoto as a realist painter of our times, who does not shout his denunciation of contemporary society, but sublimes it and, sublimating it, indirectly condemns it. It subverts the world we know, changing the power relations between things: it takes us by his hands in a Lilliputian world in which houses suddenly become small and the children giants who, not casually, almost always turn their backs on us. It takes us to a beach where a group of mature women are dominated by the giant figure of a girl dressed with the Chinese flag that emerges from the sea and runs fast towards the shore: here is the sublimation of reality, which nevertheless takes on the outlines of a warning and is a warning about what the future holds for us. But his is also the world in which Agnese magically gets lost in the clouds, in which Matteo – boy and hero at the same time – is a Superman who rests from the efforts of keeping us on his shoulders. His is the world that we can see through the gaze of the child who hopefully, and with the snack bag in hand, begins his first day in the future. And it is a world that, despite everything, fills us with hope and we like it.
THE ENDLESS STORIES IN THE REPRESENTATION OF ZAKAMOTO
It would be spontaneous to define these figurative researches as conceptual. But, in my opinion, it is all too easy: Zakamoto is, above all, a painter of visions elaborated at the table, which carry a well-targeted message. We immediately notice that in any context of narrative expressiveness, he tends to the perfectibility of the execution, giving nothing to error, both from the formal point of view and from the chromatic drafting – things that in painting replace, in the most absolute emblematic way, the word. These are certainly imaginative situations perfectly suited to our era, where everything is constantly brought back into play, distorting the premises of a future which, in these talented paintings, is represented as an anxious hope in the traits of many children. Because the present appears here without a past, presented by characters whose history has uncertain roots, often born in comics, in the pages of the news, or in popular narrative; impeccably portrayed, they are always revisited and updated in their legendary position with ethical intentions, supported by captions that are only partially revealed. It is in this context that Zakamoto’s conceptuality acts: an artist who, in his way, must be considered a neo-romantic. His completely original narrative deals with the themes of the contemporary social macrocosm with cold determination, with executive refinement, through an unexceptionable sign of executive; in these pictorial pages the choice and the drafting of the elegantly atonal colors are played in a wise contrapuntal dialogue, in visual sounds bearing uncertainties. Its museum roots are those of Italian Pop Art the so-called Roman School of the second half of the twentieth century, where Zakamoto still leads a completely free and personal journey, devoid of prefixed intellectual stakes, tending, even in the imaginative context that has imposed itself, to the most absolute objectivity. However, with his way of proceeding, it would be wrong to consider him a cold artist, on the contrary: guided by his poetics, he manages to explore his inner spaces without falling into utopia, but delivering disillusioned messages and punctual questions, where the visual appearances of his and our life are combined with the concreteness of color.
VINCENZO DALLE LUCHE
Painting is full of “children” from the mists of time. Just turn your head towards history to remember the masterpieces of Michelangelo, Botticelli, Donatello, Masaccio, Giotto, Piero Della Francesca, Bellini. All of them had a work in their curriculum entitled “Madonna with Child” and from each of these works emerges a talent, a technique, a craft, a sensitivity for painting seen as the excellence of cultural expression, simply unattainable for the most. Luca Motolese, in art Akira Zakamoto, born in 1974, is a theme already seen. It is a theme treated, visually, by the painting of the last 800 years and this good Turin painter will make a great effort to further implement it precisely for the virtue of the giants with which history requires him to confront his works. He has a nice hand, he certainly knows how to paint. The references to Wesselmann’s flashy and lit headstock are even interesting, in some canvases. His works certainly have a decorative touch that does not disturb, indeed satisfies, but the names mentioned above leave him no escape in the territory he explores. He will never be able, even from a distance, to compete with that mysterious boy that Claude Monet paintes alongside his Woman with a parasol and, perhaps, the beauty of Zakamoto is that he has no pretense. His job is much simpler than that. He aims to much more earthly purposes, he simply wants to represent, in a time that we will call “the dark frontier”, the recovery of that joy, infantile if we want but also blessed, that is housed only in the carefree childhood. In the dark frontier, in our time, being happy with what we have, accepting it and fully enjoying it every day, has become an abstract concept, more than a painting by Kandinsky who, I believe, would not have been proud of. Dreaming, crying, simply being ourselves, being fascinated by the things of life, even the small ones, has become a weakness unless we give these components of humanity an aspect that justifies them: the face of a child. There is no mention of the Peter Pan syndrome (who was by no means a good child), there is no mention of not growing up to escape from the responsibilities that life offers us growing up. A whole generation is afflicted by the Peter Pan syndrome, that of the thirty year olds, in possession of everything and at the same time nothing, unable to take responsibility of any nature, unable to respect the most basic values, unable to exit from the glass bell, incapable of relationships if not lived through the filters of telematic technologies, incapable of prioritizing, to have rules that are worth respecting. Children of a revolution right in the reasons, wrong and destructive in the results. Children of Hemingway and his maxims, true origin of the bit generation (deliberately tiny in the initials): <>. The dark frontier is the mother of this way of thinking and at the same time ideal cradle. But Zakamoto’s paintings are not part of it, fortunately. Indeed, they photograph a hope that has matured since the beginning of the “journey”, in the education we give to those who come after us. They record the desire to find some values through the subjects to whom to transfer them. One is that of the family that generates children, transfers them values, teaches them to grow and to become men and women capable of existing and shining in the future without fear of living, while knowing that living is also a commitment, not just a privilege. Although he knew that Hemingway certainly wrote very well but he really didn’t understand anything about morality! Children who generate the world to come and will modify it in their based on what they learn today. The dark frontier has counted minutes … We hope you are right Zak.
AKIRA ZAKAMOTO: BEYOND THE GAZE, BEYOND THE FUTURE
Big and deep blue eyes of the heroes of the future, a future that scares us so much in these days. Terrible days that we observe in disbelief, that we try to move away from our minds to hope for a better future. A fear that slowly fades behind the colors, spread with skill and intensity, by the safe and essential hand of this artist, who, more than ever, seems to carry the flag of serenity, of security in the future, because certainly everything will be better in the hand of these small but great creatures. The faces of earthly angels, who look to a future Paradise. And if, as they say, “children are the thermometer of today”, by observing his works, we can’t avoid to hope for better days, days in which even adults can get lost in the blue sky where soap bubbles, hot air balloons and shining stars dissolve. The shapes are essential, clear and outlined, the colors are intense, material. There are no shades of color, but the depth is given by the use of different shades that draw the almost palpable faces of these little men and little women. The face is a catalyst for emotions, it mainly occupies the space of the canvas, sometimes leaving space for little superhero bodies peeked from above, as if in flight, or for references to city architectures or otherworldly worlds. The gaze is always, or almost, turned upwards, but always meets ours, almost asking us to follow them, a call to which it is difficult to answer no. This artist has managed to push beyond his gaze, beyond normality, beyond mediocrity, to lower his stature to reach the height of the eyes of his children, to see inside their eyes and with their eyes, how could the New World appear. A beautiful fairy tale that makes us dream, with the hope that the dream could then come true.
THE WALK OF A DISTRACTED PAINTER: THE KALEIDOSCOPIC CREATIVITY OF AKIRA ZAKAMOTO
Rodari argued that ‘by making a mistake we invent’, that fantastic and creative paths can arise from the error: everything lies in supporting our mistakes, in attributing a meaning to them and in interpreting their value. Akira Zakamoto’s creative path seems to make this concept explicit, it seems to lay it as the foundation of his creative motivation, of his restless experimentation. Zakamoto encloses the error in the name, which in Japanese is an impossible, wrong name, which pays homage to the East, recalls it, encloses it in a certain way, and makes the artist recognizable: it creates an identity of which is difficult to identify the contours, given its vast and multifaceted creative production, which nevertheless appears clear like a fairy tale for children, immediately intuitable in its communicative substance. The children are often asked: “where do you have your head?”: the face, the eyes, the nose, the smile, all seem to have slipped, landed on the canvases of Zakamoto, mirror paintings of an artist whom we seem to imagine intent on touching his neck while painting, to make sure his head is still in place. His children angels, superheroes, creators of worlds, metaphors of a possible world, are children with their heads on their necks, they are faces of children who guide us in a new world where a poetics that wants to prelude to a better world is not only possible, but it is actually real. In this world Akira Zakamoto moves freely in their company, he is reborn, and recognizes what is left of a time that according to his poetics is eternal. He seems to quote a phrase attributed by tradition to Dante Alighieri, and to remind us that we have heaven, stars and children left from Heaven, and in doing so he gives his children a privileged role as narr-actors, and he highlights, from time to time, their gaze or the gestures, focusing on details that attract him more than others, which better seem to reveal a secret. As in Rodari’s “la passeggiata di un distratto”, Zakamoto’s boy gets lost, little by little, in the gaze of his characters, which is the common thread of all his poetics. The portraits, real and reinterpreted, seem to contain references to pop art, manga, his graphic formation, but all of this is reinterpreted in the light of an original content, in a colored kaleidoscope made up of harmonic parts that resonate with our eyes. At the end of the path of an exhibition by Zakamoto, all this appears clear, as if we had read a text rich in content that has been translated into simple and essential terms. As if, waiting in the doorway for the painter at the end of a walk among its meanings, we were left with – donated by the canvases – important pieces to understand him. In finding him again, all we can do is act as the “la mamma del distratto” painting of Rodari, who reassures him by reassembling his son. We will only have to say, with a smile, “Yes, Zakamoto, you have been really good”.
Zakamoto like Cassiopeia gives his unconditional help. Children are the mirror of innocence, the purest embodiment of the good, the path to follow to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and a fundamental condition for entering the Kingdom of Luca Motolese aka Akira Zakamoto. Often the gaze of the child, whose sublime fantasy is able to open the doors of dreams, has been represented as the antithesis between the world of adults, dotted with nightmares and contradictions. Children are an inexhaustible mine of found, of daring solutions, of unexpected conclusions and Zakamoto proves to be well aware of this wealth and fully exploits it. His existential and pictorial trust seems to be placed in their plump faces with bright eyes of amazement and innocence, which he first photographs and then reproduces with a brush. The compositions with adult subjects are sporadic, however the canvases of the ” Stanze dorate” depict suggestive female half-length busts with the head reclined dressed in galaxy clothes. Initially in the paintings the chromatic shades of red, yellow, gray and black were predominant, but later the palette was enriched with rainbow tones spread and unmade in a more full-bodied and material mixture. In the latest works, we feel that the artist is studying the technique in depth: initially the pure color is spread in flat and uniform backgrounds, then, gradually, it falls apart in mixtures and iridescent shadows of great pictorial gestures. The space of the canvas is almost exclusively occupied by faces and small shrunken bodies seen from above. Usually the background is monochrome: black, light blue, pink, purple, red, orange, yellow and green skies, but lines converging towards a point also appear. Other times we recognize panoramas of cities, galaxies with planets, exploding steroids, stylized stars, flying saucers that project beams of light, huge numbers and phrases. There are also brands of American drinks such as Coca Cola, Schweeps and the Miquelito puppet from the coffee-maker commercial. This choice reveals a latent criticism of consumerism and globalization that the American society imposes. Another problem lies behind the pictorial project concerning “Ritalin”, a sedative psychotropic drug that is administered by parents to children considered hyperkinetic. In the series of paintings entitled ” Portatori del futuro” and “Creatori di mondi”, faces of children full of strength and vitality appear who, with a pleased air, show us magical games. In their hands may appear a terrestrial globe per ball, or a planet in nuce as a ball, but also a star-shaped magic wand through which they carefully peer at us. In addition, only one breath is enough to transform mild and evanescent soap bubbles into planets and stars that, with a cosmic watering, can drink energy. Through a simple breath, they are able to give life to their imagination without some prohibitions and to forge an alternative planet to the now corrupt adult land. From the exasperation of the deeply anarchic and warrior part that exists in every child, even the best, who day after day struggles with his nails and teeth to assert his freedom of expression, another series of works is born, called “Superoes”. The inspiration starts from the idea of the “superman” and from the exhausting struggle against the rules that culture violently imposes on children in the form of caresses and slaps. It is a silent battle, the representation of a wild unconscious in which children choose not to bend to an artificial, sweetened reality and to their eyes: an act of protest against the world of adults. It is always a dream, after all: the dream of an Elsewhere that is not there, not so different from that island where Peter Pan takes refuge. With impetuous and warm colors, Zakamoto fights the degradation of reality and creates little superheroes who stand as saviors of the planet and fly over the cities. By spell, their hair becomes waves, flames and confetti. Among hinted smiles and iridescent eyes, superheroes from American comics also appear, such as Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America, Ironman, Thor, Flame … and continents. Instead, the series of paintings dedicated to the “Angeli” puts in the foreground children with large heads and shortened bodies who fly upwards and wear glasses on whose lenses the stars are reflected. Unaware of their power, through their pure innocence they redeem us from everyday grayness by showing us a different path. The artist can only kneel and observe the advent of the new world and look exhausted at the faces of the poets of the future. It is fascinating to discover how children see things “from the straight and from the reverse” and possess the will to overcome appearances without fear, indeed the unknown is explored and tried! As in the story of Gianni Rodari, “La torta in cielo”, two cute children defeat the fears of adults and enjoy a wonderful cake that came down from heaven believed by everyone to be a flying saucer or who knows what other catastrophe. In the paintings called “Giro Giro Tondo cambia il mondo” and “Avvistamenti”, between and fun, the child represents the future and observes the Earth exploding in a thousand fragments of light. And here is the beginning of change: the end is nothing but the beginning of a new life, from the colored splinters new and uncontaminated worlds will be rebuilt, far from normality seen as a rigid scheme and a common behavioral model. Through the “FiloDiFusione” project, Zakamoto entrusts the “Bandiera del futuro” with the message of change that was transmitted to him by the extraterrestrial beings who kidnapped him: “We are about to witness the birth of a new dimension created by love, dream, magic and madness”. The banner with the sweet face with far-sighted gaze is traveling all over the world and for three days it flies on the balconies of those who request it. In this way, the work of art approaches people and a request for help will be financed by the shipping cost. Zakamoto, like Cassiopeia, gives his unconditional help, wisely shows us the way to salvation through images. Instead, the children painted by the artist are like Momo and they will be the ones who will teach us to savor the little daily joys. A special turtle named Cassiopeia knew “to speak”, not by voice, but by making bright letters appear on his carapace. This particular tortoise leads Momo to Mastro Hora. the ruler of time, to defeat the perfidious Gray Lords who stole free time to citizens by making them believe they can invest it better. “People, in this way, start doing everything in a hurry, in a hurry because they have so many things to do and to finish without tasting and savoring anything of their lives, they now live only with the aim of doing things in the shortest possible time with the illusion of saving time, in reality they are WASTING all the time available to them …. without thinking that it is time, our only true wealth. Because time is life. And life dwells in the heart. ” (Michael Ende, Momo, 1973) Through a fantastic and imaginary symbolism, both Akira Zakamoto’s paintings and the novel are a fierce criticism of the consumerism and frenzy of modern life, which in its technological and productive progress completely loses sight of the goal of people’s happiness and quality of life. Observing Akira Zakamoto’s paintings is like reading Michael Ende’s fantastic novel, it is like looking in the mirror and discovering yourself as unable to dream; it is like spying through a crystal ball and seeing an unpromising future. Nevertheless, there is always hope for change.
ZAKAMOTO’S CHILDREN SHOULD NEVER GO TO SLEEP.
“A boy climbs a tree, climbs through the branches, passes from one plant to another, decides that he will never go down again.” The literary world created by Italo Calvino with “Il Barone Rampante” is comparable to the artistic one of Akira Zakamoto aka Luca Motolese. This boy, who takes refuge in the trees, becomes a hero of disobedience, an allegory of the poet and his suspended way of being in the world. Similarly, Zakamoto tells of children who have already lifted their feet off the ground, for fear of being contaminated by reality, and how angels let themselves be carried away by the breath of life that pushes them powerfully towards the universe. In the “Invisible Cities”, Calvino tells of a visionary traveler who describes imaginary cities outside of time and space, and Zakamoto paints them on square canvases. During a conference held in New York (1983), the writer spoke insistently about the destruction of the natural environment and the fragility of large technological systems that can produce chain failures, paralyzing entire metropolises; in parallel Zakamoto, through his portraits, escapes from the impending catastrophe and dreams. Children born from the artist’s hand, through their creativity, forget the daily injustices, find the strength to start again and redeem their and our condition, even transforming themselves into superheroes, explorers, demigods and world creators. Their gaze is charismatic, it is pure power, vitality, it has nothing frail, it is strength mixed with tenderness. The little messengers have a magnetic and prophetic expression, they communicate to us their incomprehensibility of the way of life of adults. Only they will be able to redeem humanity from the mistakes made and for this reason they hold the terrestrial globe in their hand and indifferent play with the planets and stars. This is not a harsh criticism of society, almost rather a cynical and ironic one, perhaps it’s the desperate acknowledgment of the homologation of reality and the impossibility of change by adults. Zakamoto’s portraits allow us to reflect on the world in which we live, on our greyness and the heaviness of being adults, making us meditate on how we were, the energy and desire to live that we possessed, as without worries we could fly lightly over the cities. Zakamoto escapes from the “here and now” towards the re-enactment of the world of children, but remains rooted in the present, trying to become aware of what is happening and to know how to react. The artist, through the ” Bandiera del future” project, wants to share this hope for change with those who want it. We hope that the party that left the Bottega Indaco in Turin will pass the “Colonne d’Ercole” and stop its journey only when it is exhausted and satisfied. In Zakamoto’s painting, everything turns upside down and it seems absurd that the world of children can re-educate the adults, now disoriented. “Only to those who possess, with innocence, the smile is allowed to evoke utopia.” (Sergio Moravia). Like Virgil, Motolese is an utopian and foresees the arrival of a mysterious boy, who will bring a new golden age; as Hesiod conceives his subjects “as gods who spent their lives with their soul free from anguish, far away, out of the labors and misery; nor did miserable old age hang over them […] all the beautiful things they had.” (The works and the days). The artist warns us to find the child in us and to keep him intact despite the passing of the years and recognizing that literary vein in which the authors wish to return as children to give free rein to their imagination. For example, in “Gulliver’s Travels” Swift reports on some trips to strange peoples, combining fantasy and fierce criticism of the society of the time, becoming an excuse to mock the judicial system, the mechanisms of power or the war policy. Like Gulliver, the subjects of Zakamoto, since they cannot support the reality of injustices and limitations in which they live, embark on a ship of hope and shipwreck on unknown lands. Like the writer, the artist is ashamed of the brutalities committed by mankind! Similarly, Zakamoto, with his own visionary poetics and ability to know how to play even in adulthood, is linked to Barrie’s novel: Peter Pan, the flying child who refuses to grow up, spending an endless adventurous childhood on the island doesn’t exist. So children are the very essence of Zakamoto’s art, they are pure art. Let’s not forget that art is play, it is fantasy, it is the ability to communicate, surprise us, deceive us and therefore the artist could not have chosen a more suitable subject to move the soul! We can speak of nostalgia for an innocent and happy childhood, of an Eden that on Earth is no longer possible to create, so why not make it elsewhere, for example with a brush stroke dipped in rainbow? Like Matisse, he proposes an emotional and vital vision, in which figures and objects are not investigated, but felt and harmoniously combined according to chromatic relationships: everything participates in the joy of life. He is far from the tragedy and despair of reality, although aware of it, he nevertheless finds shelter in a lyrical and carefree dimension: it is pure utopia, estrangement from reality in the search of better worlds, it is a bright smile. “Only to those who possess, with innocence, the smile are allowed to evoke utopia.” (Sergio Moravia) Zakamoto’s paintings have a festive, playful aspect, between the dreamlike, hallucinated and visionary; his showy images are fixed in the mind in an indelible way, with hypnotic and captivating looks, attracting the attention of the viewer as a successful advertising graphic. The painter spreads the color in a charged and flat way, exacerbates the use of pure and saturated tones such as the fauves. He rediscover the expressive value of the colors, giving up the mix and nuances, looking only for functional combinations. His unnatural and acidic chromatic excess reminds me of a handful of candies or confetti dropped on a canvas. He reject the classic spatiality, the figures are suspended in fantastic and metaphysical eternity. Through the computer, he simplifies and synthesizes the photographic images by recalling Andy Warhol and the Roman pop school, in particular Tano Festa, for the reproposition of subjects such as advertising images. You can perceive the stylistic influence of pop art, comics, cartoons so loved by Roy Lichtenstein, by the charm of Japanese manga and I would even venture by that of Jacque Monory. In the last period, his stylistic way has been moving towards a new, more pronounced gesture and materiality, thanks also to the introduction of softer pastels. As Picasso said: “Drawing is a way of writing stories.” and Zakamoto really understood the meaning of these words, as even his biography is a fairy tale: it begins with “Once upon a time, a child kidnapped by aliens” and ends with “the children, angels and superheroes, rediscovered the essence of life, they gave back the desire to live to the adults and they all lived happily ever after”. You have to have children’s eyes to grasp the essence of the world and the painting of Zakamoto shows us that there are happy worlds in which humanity will be redeemed and happy, you just have to keep their vision even growing. Children should never go to sleep; they wake up older of a day. ” (James Matthew Barrie)
THE YOUNG AGE OF ANGELS, THE CHILDREN OF AKIRA ZAKAMOTO
Akira Zakamoto’s world was born following the disappearance of little Akira, kidnapped by alien creatures from humanity, hence the boy’s mission to reveal the truths known on his long journey. This anecdote, halfway between dreamlike suggestion and manga genre, is the manifesto of the artistic personality of Zakamoto aka Luca Motolese. The gnoseological approach to art through the prophetic dimension becomes a creative trick to explore worlds, figurative languages and concepts, otherwise confined in a conventional and limiting feeling. Furthermore, this biographical split allows a merely artistic existence, a passe-partout towards a new dimension, revealed by the authentic sensitivity of a child. In these terms, the theme of the child becomes crucial in the poetics of Zakamoto / Motolese, identifying a sort of pedagogy à l’envers, or an education guided by the inexhaustible strength of small men. The soul of childhood is revealed through the inquiring gaze of eyes that sometimes maintain a penetrating fixity of innocence, sometimes a tender and disarming expression. The children of Zakamoto convert the fragility that commonly surrounds them into communicative power. The looks, captured in their simplicity, break the candid and playful atmosphere in which these subjects are conventionally placed. The iconographic independence from traditional schemes places the child at the center of the figurative context, in which there is a total dimensional and perspective autonomy of the image in the foreground with respect to the scenographies that host it. The definition of angels attributable to celestial creatures is supported by the etymological meaning of the term that goes back to the meaning of angheloi, that is, of messengers. The message that derives from this conceptual world is hidden in the folds of a prophetic tone and is underlined by the cosmic theme present in many of the artist’s works. In reality, the metaphor of cosmonaut children – superficially relegated to an exclusively pop-comic strip – is nothing more than a tool to emphasize the omnipotence of the child’s imagination. The infinite / finite contrast translates into a perspective reversal through the formula of attention of the spatial infinity, reduced compared to the enlargement of children’s faces. This dematerialization of the big and the small subverts the usual patterns and identifies the essential nucleus of the art of Zakamoto: the child is cosmodemurgist, or creator of worlds, able to shape reality through imagination, divine spark. Each child, who constitutes the most germinal expression of human nature, has the freedom and strength to overcome every adult category in the mind of man. Space undergoes a reduction of scale, time does not govern ages. In this sense we can read the spatial suspension of the figures, while the child becomes a temporal paradigm that embodies an eternal present. In this new iconographic order, infantile figures wander suspended in cosmic and sometimes cosmological atmospheres: now space explorers, now world creators. Whole continents become patches of color on the faces, almost outcomes of lively playful performances, while the Earth is a ball in the hands of creatures apparently so fragile, but so eternal. In the “Angeli” series (2009), Zakamoto proposes a variation on the theme, revisiting himself through a new figurative language. The deforming figure of conventional proportionality remains, while child angels fly over human places. In particular, cities are the scenarios on which the children of Zakamoto float. The personalizing cut of the anthropized environment, attributable to reality, differentiates this cycle of works from the astronomical-planetary settings of previous works. The human place prevails over the non-place, giving a new aura to the contents. Jerusalem, Tokyo, Beijing, Madrid, Paris, Florence and Turin are some of the cities on which the little angels fly, who dominate the large canvases. The revealing force of children manages to fly over the places of humanity, whether they are megalopolies of progress, centers of international political tension, historic cities of the Old Continent. The artist’s point of view acts on every human dimension by reducing the symbolic cities of the world into plastic game scenarios in which the curiously amazed and disarming expressions of childhood faces stand out. This spontaneous response is, without rhetoric, the affirmation of life that is renewed in the many lively, curious but more consciously disenchanted glances than our adult conscience, which regrets having grown up, wants us to believe.
Akira has (definitively?) put the spaceships in the garage and the flying islands in the attic, leaving the stars and some exploding world as the only concessions to the past: everything is concentrated on the faces of children, from infants without even the first tooth to adolescence thresholds. There is so much mystery in a child’s face that we no longer need to look for it elsewhere. As always, what the visitor observes is not everything, since our artist feels the need to accompany the images with words that summarize their meaning: this writing is printed on the leaflet of the exhibition, a small but well-kept paper object that is truly of rare beauty in the graphic balance between childish faces, disintegrating worlds and words. Akira not only knows how to paint but also writes, and the message he wants to convey to us in words is an amplification, or rather a (personal but not distorted) exegesis of what Jesus said about children and the need to be like them, because whoever is like them belongs the kingdom of heaven – which kingdom, the Master himself warns, is not to be found elsewhere, in the hamletic “country not yet discovered, from whose borders no traveler returns”, but down here, among us. To find out, you need to have eyes and look in the right direction. One possibility is precisely to look a child in the eyes and, rather than read inside, let him read us. This is what the exhibition suggests. Zakamoto’s way of representing childish eyes has achieved admirable refinement and efficacy in the last paintings, albeit with simple means: by still bringing the Christ into play, the lamp of your body is the eye, and if your eye is in the light your whole body will be in the light. Just as for Akira the face represents part for the whole and is more than enough to synthesize an entire human body, so the eye is enough by itself to make the face live and characterize. The child is all in one piece: if he is sad, he is not only sad, he is desperate, if he is cheerful, he overwhelms joy from all pores; he cannot and does not want to conceal feelings, from fear to curiosity, from waiting to perplexity. Akira, the father of children, knows it well and represents it equally well in his paintings. Even in the two cases in which he allows himself the habit of coagulating the alternation of lights and shadows on the face of the child in spots that have the profile of America: it’s not sure that the observer could notice it immediately … It’s lmost inevitable, at this point, to choose a childish face by Zakamoto to fix (and attract) the possible reader of a book on indigo children such as Celia Fenn’s “Indigo-crystal adventure”: a guessed and captivating cover comes out, which presages that our future may be full of satisfactions also as an illustrator. Maybe not only for covers, and not only for an adult audience: a children’s book full of zakamotian children would also look great on the inner pages …
NICOLA DAVIDE ANGERAME
His experience as a rebirther leads him to retrace stages of a forgotten childhood, which translates his style into an essentialist painting, where the close-up looks of infants act as ferrymen of our inner gaze towards a cosmic, ancient and future dimension such as the travel that Stanley Kubrick describes, that of the astronaut Bowman in “2001 A Space Odyssey”. Zakamoto’s painting refers to such an odyssey, internalized and cosmic at the same time, which presents some points of contact with the Japanese aesthetic of manga, comics played exclusively on the emotional and narrative values of the image, which meets in color an important place of assimilation of the concept, of exasperation of reality and transfiguration of linear space-time into an imaginative image. In one of his paintings entitled “Il mondo ci osserva”, quite self-explanatory of the series, Zakamoto enhances the blue of a child’s eyes and his gaze turned towards the immeasurable altitudes of a sidereal space, where sometimes entire planets fall apart. “For me they have the meaning of a change,” says Zakamoto. The child has an inquiring gaze but also of metaphysical amazement, dictated by the miracle of being, here and now, and of being placed in front of the annihilating magnificence of creation. On his face, a patch of skin in the shape of an American continent transforms his real features into a geographical map where macrocosm and microcosm, the universe and man, are mirrored in each other. The colors are fixed in these portraits as flat areas of static action, as continents of a “political” map of the Atlas. Boundary zones, patchwork, color-zone puzzles that become faces, looks, questions. The lights and the depths are the effect of a combination of separate colors sewn together, each one intent to produce its own result, to develop a fragment of pop language where the disappearance of the nuances, the flattening of the chromatic field made shimmering by the use of lacquers represents an aesthetic statement. Zakamoto chooses a zonal film painting, openly inclined to an artificial simplification of the painting so that it can transmit primary, essential sensations. A painting that does not want to distract through the exaltation of the particular but to immediately, instinctively communicate the strength of a feeling that is that of a childhood lost and found by Zakamoto through a practice, that of rebirthing, which is perhaps comparable to a controlled dream, an inner journey in the maze of ancestral memories, those of the first years of life of which we are not aware but which act within us as unconscious mechanisms, as traumas that dig into the personality and perhaps also as dreams, imaginations, desires that determine choices of which we do not know, now adults, to give an exhaustive explanation. As if a karst river is flowing through our soul, digging uninterrupted paths to which Zakamoto tries to give a face.
THE STRONGHOLDS OF THE DREAM
The power of dreams. So wonderfully immeasurable, the power of dreams, to suggest fairy tales to the Homeric ear of singers from all over the world, to sublimate the being to the semi-divine dimension that everything allows and can. It can create, live with a millennial intensity, model mental landscapes in which the protagonists alternate themselves but always share a non-space, in which the only thing excluded is the real. And when the painters dream, with the clear will to tell their dreams, through expressive languages that lead the gaze of the stranger into the nature of the dreamlike, then there is a miracle. Of those who transform what remains abstract for others, of those who give shape and nuances to the dream, of those who tell a story intertwined with brushstrokes, which with each change of color turn the page. Akira Zakamoto. Art with bright colors, his, on square supports, always of the same size, and the elements return, punctual, since of him intimately, like a familiar dream that recurs and is not surprising, welcoming in the circle of visions; the artist seems to transpose the negative of nocturnal mirages on the canvas, photographed in the instant of revelation that opens his eyes, even in his sleep. Painting without filters, passage in the mind in the full hallucinated phase in which the vision is anxious and true. And so here they are, the stars that illuminate, the stones suspended in the void, spaceships that shine with vivacious trails in a dimension that has nothing real. And in the foreground, with the gaze fixed on that of the observer, faces of angels show the way of the possible, indicating the island of eternal bliss, the planet on which man will find salvation, always traveling, personal exodus. There is a universe full in the artist’s canvases and behind the vivid images, a philosophy of existence that transpires and manifests itself through paintings-tales full of signs, allusions, plots that never run out at the mere glance. The Turin painter with an oriental name sets his painting entirely on the sense of contact with another world, a bridge which, through the delightful ignorance of children-teachers and angelic creatures still uncontaminated, allows man to land in the non- place, where beauty can be savored and captured, in a dimension without conditioning. Also, for Zakamoto, as for Palumbo, it is Utopia. When two painters unite in the sign of dream, we witness a miracle, we said. We are witnessing the construction of an impregnable dream fortress, the will to delineate the boundaries of a limbo where creation is shared and the passage to the non-place is offered and told. And this is the story that in a tower in Rivoli will be told in September, through the exhibition of paintings whose different Palumbo-Zakamoto languages will talk about the same other vision. The Torre della Filanda, from 23 September to 1 October, in fact becomes a sacred place where paintings and indefinable realities, on the borderline between visual and auditory art, will involve the public in a perceptive journey with sonorous and tactile nuances. Where the angels of Zakamoto will live, smiling, among the rocks of the islands of Palombo, in the untouchable strongholds of the dream.