「An Ideal World」

In the glossy oil paintings of Yosuke Kobashi is always depicted the artist himself. It was about two years ago that he began to work on his self-portraits, and until then, he had painted mainly portraits of other people. While painting their portraits, however, he began to have intense interest in portraits as something relevant to the act of painting itself rather than the personality or inner life of the subject. For that reason, naturally the necessity for painting others' portraits disappeared, and he shifted to self-portraits as it was the most familiar. For Kobashi, a figure constitutes factors that let him construct pictures freely, and at the same time, provide him with a means to communicate one's feelings and mental state, and a way to symbolize the relationship between oneself and the other, or humans and nature. It does not mean, however, that he is interested in expressing his own feelings or mental state, narcissism or self-expression. There is neither vivid detail nor tension between mind and body as in the paintings of Lucien Freud. Instead, we can see the artist's intention to paint the body as a symbol of life, and the state of the world in relation to life. What is also striking about his painting is that he combines freely different painting techniques for expressions. At times, Kobashi makes free use of Gauguin-style violent touch and colors, and some other times he composes pictures with Matisse-style colors and decorative quality. This unrestricted sampling of techniques can be considered one of his methods to stay free in painting. Through this freedom obtained in painting, his pictures are flooded with the most basic pleasure of painting, and therefore give viewers indescribable satisfaction.
Also in his portraits, a landscape or scenes reflecting his inner feelings extend around a figure. Though such a scene looks unrealistic and unusual as in dreams, the artist's view of the world is vividly shown. It is the world where humans and nature including animals and plants live in mutual complements in harmony without any split. He is trying to depict surrealistically such an ideal world through the medium of painting. Furthermore, his portraits remind us somewhat of Henry Darger's girl with a penis. It is uncertain if Darger as an outsider artist believed in girls with penises, but his depiction of a hermaphroditic girl as a symbol of the innocent or the messenger of justice strangely overlaps the world that Kobashi tried to depict through his nude self-portraits. Ancient gods, for instance, Mitravaruna in Ancient lndia is a hermaphroditic deity combining Mitra, a priest symbolizing a male and the daytime, and Varuna, a warrior symbolizing a female and night. Hermaphroditic deities have been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth as gods that unite or settle dualistic conflicts, and often used as the image complementary to dualism. What Darger and Kobashi have in common is that both artists express the world transcending the said dualism between humans and animals, man and woman, and right and wrong. What Kobashi aims to achieve in his paintings is a beautifully hermaphroditic ideal world where conflicting phenomena exist as if they were complementing one another in harmony.

Kenji Kubota/2006「criterium 66 Yosuke Kobashi」