Shuhei Yamada EYE
Courtesy of SOKYO ATSUMI, Photo by Yuji Imamura

Nihilism and unique perspective, sophisticated quotations, and expressions that will stick with art history fans. Shuhei Yamada’s “Medamayaki” exhibition is being held at SOKYO ATSUMI in Tennozu TERRADA ART COMPLEX II, Tokyo. The exhibition will run from September 19 to November 23, 2023 (Ended).


Shuhei Yamada EYE
Courtesy of SOKYO ATSUMI, Photo by Yuji Imamura

Both eyeballs and eggs are motifs loved by surrealists

The eyeball is jealous of the egg.
The egg is fragile and unstable, yet within its white liquid sphere lies the source of life.
The egg yearns for the eyeball that can see the world and be enraptured, although also frightened.
Both have the same elliptical spherical shape (like testicles), but the eyeball can never become an egg, and the egg can never become the eyeball [although it does allow for fried eggs, in Japanese medamayaki].
Both eggs and eyes take pride in being motifs that were much loved by the surrealists.
ーShuhei Yamada

Shuhei Yamada “Medamayaki”
Courtesy of SOKYO ATSUMI, Filmed and edited by Hayato Wakabayashi 

The balloon work EYE is a 1.5m to 2.5m diameter, a weighted sphere with eyeballs like those in horror comic books, which moves left and right as it is swayed by the wind from a fan. The eyeballs, each with a different design, were hand-drawn in ink. The shifting appearance of the eyeballs overlaps with the situation in which people today are at the mercy of AI and other forms of information. Yamada was very particular about how to make the work shake so that it would move strangely.

Shuhei Yamada EYE
Courtesy of SOKYO ATSUMI, Photo by Yuji Imamura

Inspired by Hitchcock’s “Spellbound”. A unique sense of distance and nihilism

Yamada has been focusing on eyes for many years, ever since he saw the big eye scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s film “Spellbound”, a 1945 psycho-thriller. The centerpiece of the exhibition is the grouping of large balloons titled EYE, inspired by the film. The master of surrealism, the maverick genius Salvador Dali, collaborated in the creation of the film’s staging and images. Yamada’s interest in nihilism has led him to create works through his reflections on contemporary society, and this time he used eyeballs(Japanese: medama), a favorite motif of surrealist artists, to depict contemporary society.

Yamada was born in 1974 and lives in Kyoto. He has exhibited in Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and New York. In 2003, Yamada was awarded the New Cosmos of Photography Excellence Prize by Canon. In 2013, thanks to a referral by Eric Shiner, the director of The Andy Warhol Museum, Yamada was the only Japanese artist chosen for the Armory Show “Focus”, and his World War II-inspired artwork was well received.

He works in a variety of media: photography, video, installation, and silkscreen. His black humor stands out, sometimes with ironic, sometimes nonsensical, his art encapsulates his unique perspective, and by causing a subtle “gap” in the viewer’s understanding of everyday objects and images, he prompts thinking about larger questions.

Shuhei Yamada EYE.A, 2023
Ink on balloon, φ200cm/φ78.7 in
Courtesy of SOKYO ATSUMI, Photo by Yuji Imamura

Shuhei Yamada EYE.B, 2023
Ink on balloon, φ200cm/φ78.7 in
Courtesy of SOKYO ATSUMI, Photo by Yuji Imamura

Eggs and Fire. Creation and destruction. Opposites in one work. A sense of provocation

Shuhei Yamada Egg
Courtesy of SOKYO ATSUMI, Photo by Yuji Imamura

Yamada took on the challenge of contrasting “things with different meanings” by creating a single work of art. In this exhibition, on the wall, a selection of silkscreen titled Egg, are also based on motifs used by Dali and René Magritte. The egg, a symbol of creation and birth, is depicted by Yamada with a burning building

The black humor of the work is that the creativity suggested by the egg and the destructive image that contradicts it are combined on a single canvas, resulting in a fried egg. A sense of provocation is expressed in the work. The colors seem to dare to be Warholian.

Shuhei Yamada Egg.5, 2023
Silkscreen ink, acrylic paint on canvas,
H98×W75cm/ H38.5 × W29.5 in.
Courtesy of SOKYO ATSUMI, Photo by Yuji Imamura

Editor’s Note

Art history fans will enjoy the distinctive sense of quotations from past masters. In contemporary art, it is necessary to express that one’s work exists in the flow of art history. Using skill and humor, Yamada lands smoothly in the history. It is conceptual, yet enjoyable.

Shuhei Yamada

Born 1974, currently lives and works in Kyoto.
Major solo exhibitions include Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, London (2019); AISHONANZUKA, Hong Kong (2017, 2016, 2014); The Armory Show, New York (2013). Major group exhibitions include Positionalities, Kyoto City University of Arts Gallery @ KCUA, Kyoto (2022); KUROOBIANACONDA 03 SANMAIOROSHI, TEZUKAYAMA GALLERY, Osaka (2021); Taguchi Collection Next World The Power of Dreaming, Iwaki City Museum of Art, Japan (2021); Unclear Nuclear, URANO, Tokyo, Japan (2016); Resonance, Sao La Gallery, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (2014); ISCP Residency Program, New York (2017). Awards include the New Cosmos of Photography Excellence Prize by Canon (2003). His works are in the collections of the Taguchi Collection and G Foundation.

Shuhei Yamada EYE
Courtesy of SOKYO ATSUMI, Photo by Yuji Imamura

Shuhei Yamada | Medamayaki

Dates: Tuesday, September 19 – Thursday, November 23(tentative), 2023
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SOKYO ATSUMI, the venue for the “Medamayaki” exhibition, is an exhibition space for contemporary art by Sokyo Gallery in Kyoto.

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