Any color just so long as it's yellow
"Although yellow often has negative connotations in the West, here in the East it is a very positive color," Goh Shigi is quick to point out at the opening of his latest show, Heat of Yellow, presenting 15 of his latest oils and several drawings at Ginza’s Nishimura Gallery.
While in the West yellow has traditionally been the color of cowardice, quarantine, and bad journalism, in the Orient it is a royal color, and one which Shigi's wife tells me he has always felt a close affinity with. On a more practical level, nothing quite beats the Winter blues like a splash of yellow.
Some of the works on display are simple riotous celebrations of the color like Endless Sea of Yellow. At first glance it looks like a boundless field of wheat being rippled by the wind until you remember how golden the sea can look under a dazzling sun.
Living near the Kanagawa coast, the 58-year-old Shigi has many opportunities to paint seascapes. Time of Sea/Yellow shows a fishing boat heading out to sea.
"I saw this from my own window," he tells me pointing to the brilliant yellow background that peeps through a web of darker red and purple strokes to create the effect of glistening waves and shadowed troughs.
In Time of Sea/Blue, he has painted the same scene, starting with reds, yellows, and pinks, completely painted over with white and shadows of indigo blue. At first only the last two colors seem in evidence, but as you look glints of the other colors dart out, almost as if the waves are acting as prisms, splitting light into its components.
This layering of one color on top of another and the way that some colors are able to shine through is a recurring theme in his work.
"I work like a machine putting one layer on another," he confesses. "This way of working has something in common with Japanese ukiyo-e printing."
One important difference is that ukiyo-e woodblock printers tried to avoid any overlap whereas for Shigi it is an integral part of his art.
One of the most interesting paintings in this respect is Skin of Winter. Showing a stretch of road heading into a treeless landscape. Originally painted in rich greens, oranges and yellows, these colors are covered over with monochrome grays to suggest the onset of winter and its frosts. Even where small flecks or patches of color don’t show through, there remains something unearthly about the tone of the gray, as if one can feel the vibrations of the colors lying beneath it. Although Winter is able to lock away the colors of Spring, those colors still call to us from beneath the cold crust.
Heat of Yellow runs until 1 Dec. at the Nishimura Gallery
14th November, 2001