Issa no 8 Pīsu Pazuru
(一茶の8ピースパズル / 8-piece puzzle of Issa)

When is a painting not a painting? When it is a puzzle.

We spent our summer break on the Adriatic island Vis. Regular strolls each day to the Grandovac beach would take us through the Kut (Angle) part of Vis town. Nice and photogenic church of St. Cyprian and Justina is situated there.  One day I took my camera with me to take a few shots for the good memories. I had basic 3×3 camera grid on just to find easier a balance in photo and I noticed upper left corner to be empty blue. Actually, the entire architecture has been finishing into this monochrome flat blue. No sun, no seagulls, just big empty. Like the sky over Chiba. And my mind just took off. All I could see was this crescendo of vertical, horizontal lines and flat monochrome blue. All the sense of the three dimensional space was gone; drawing dominated as individual force, neutralizing matter in favor of two dimensional geometry. In the moments I could sense that time and space shift like in David Schnell´s paintings.  And the upper left corner just stands there, empty. Like a missing piece of the sliding puzzle I used to play when I was little.

The name Vis in Latin is the same as that of Japanese haiku master (Kobayashi) Issa. His wit and somewhat sarcastic humorous approach to haiku separates him from other masters. And because of these elements Utamaro Lichtenstein comes in picture. What if painting is not something to be solved but rather a puzzle to be made.

For the building of this painting I returned to my basic painting process that I developed at the Art Academy. Rudimentary color palette applied with brush and painting knives. I started forming architecture in classical way, similar to the canon painting sold on the streets or in the tourist galleries in the sea side towns. Just enough to make people who know my art to go – Yuck! And then I just went over it with the painting knives emphasizing all that mesh of horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, long one and broken ones, covering all this smoothness and likability of this somewhat generic scene. The finished painting is not a static recognizable picture but rather a set of elements to be used and reused to make new haiku verses.

Technique: acrylic on canvas, magnetic paint, magnets, hardboard, velcro

Size: polyptych 92,5 x 92,5 cm (36,5 x 36,5 inch)
canvases 8x 30x30cm (11.81 x 11.81 inch )

Year: November 2021

Availability: In Private Collection

Utamaro Lichtenstein

After presenting/exhibiting first series of paintings from the 100 Views of Ukiyo-e, I immediately started to think about further development of my idea that Pop art and most of the modern arts are rooted in Ukiyo-e. In the 100 Views of Ukiyo-e I am trying to present Ukiyo-e prints as contemporary art, by giving them new “original” painting, new source. In the process of painting, more or less, Ukiyo-e prints are modernized to achieve more global symbolism.  What I noticed is that people still perceived my paintings as Japanese and even exhibitions are called Japanese art exhibitions, therefore failing to see that it became, in a way, Bosnian art, and that Ukiyo-e has still a strong global influence and should be perceived as one of the pillars of the global art, meaning not just Japanese/Asian but the World history of art.In the process of thinking I had to come back to the beginning of my research.  My research began with American Pop art and my interest for the fine arts began when I saw Roy Lichtensten´s Whaam! painting in some art magazine or a book. Printed on the size of the regular comic frame, even with the size written underneath the print, what I saw were just comics being recognized as fine art. One year later, I applied to Academy of Fine Arts, Sarajevo.  In the final year, I was able to research Pop art more actively and one thing led to another, and I ended up researching Ukiyo-e.

But what about Pop art and Lichtenstein and Ukiyo-e?

Lichtenstein’s work could be also perceived as Appropriation art, for its source comes from another visual medium. On the other hand, my art is mostly Appropriation art, and it usually deals with question of the copy and original. For example, all “original” subjects of my paintings are known to me through their printed or digital copies. I could only imagine their size, their colors, or their texture and surface relief. So my painting is alternative to original and in most cases it is alternated original. So if I say that Ukiyo-e is Pop art, am I not saying that Pop art is Ukiyo-e? And welcome to the birth of Utamaro Lichtenstein. It is a series of paintings that have source in Lichtenstein work, but they will be Japanized, as if Lichtenstein himself was Japanese, and we are all living in alternative universe where Eastern hemisphere and arts dominated over the Western. I chose name Utamaro, as it is one of the most mentioned artist who influenced Impressionism and I added Lichtenstein as in Ukiyo-e practice for artist to adopt family name of his school master. Painting will be comment to more contemporary subjects. As in early translations of Mangas (Japanese comics), where pages were mirrored to allow more left to right reading flow, all paintings will be mirrored to achieve right to left flow. All paintings will be signed as Utamaro Lichtenstein.