Breaking the Mold: Tenmyouya Hisashi’s Reappraisal of Japanese Aesthetics



An eccentric exploration of Japan-style “streetwise beauty”

Most people would probably identify “wabi/sabi” as the key concept in Japanese art. But is that really the case?

Bold and unrestrained, completely wild in their behavior—such were the Japanese warriors who built a culture overflowing with originality even as they oversaw slaughter on the battlefield. Tenmyouya Hisashi has long sought to represent the “streetwise beauty” of this culture with a contemporary touch, and his recently concluded exhibition at Mizuma Art Gallery in Ichigaya, Tokyo was no exception.

Above: Tenmyouya Hisashi, “Robot with Vermilion Helmet and Black Lacquered Suit of Armor, with Two-Piece Cuirass with Various Lacing” (2016) (Detail)

rd1700_(2)tengaiTenmyouya Hisashi, “Pop-Up Demon’s Night Parade Cityscape Folding Screen” (2017): Based on a late Edo or early Meiji screen set by an unknown artist, and one of the largest pieces by surface area Tenmyouya has ever worked on

A new exhibition based on the revolutionary Basara aesthetic

Against the authoritarian Japanese artistic system mired in academism and convention, Tenmyouya pursues a unique kind of art he calls “Neo-Nihonga,” resurrecting one of the nation’s traditional genres for the present day. The Basara nomads of the 14th century, the flamboyant Kabukimono of the late 16th century: dismissed as outré and in poor taste, these movements captured Tenmyouya’s attention, and today he preaches a revolutionary aesthetic he calls “Basara.”

In this, his first solo exhibition in two years, Tenmyouya released new pieces under the title “Transformation”—seemingly simple, but actually a reference to the biological process in which foreign DNA is added to an organism’s genetic code. But why?


Next page: “A conscious attempt to revolutionize Japanese aesthetics