With a vivid pink nimbus surrounding its head, Hiroyasu Tsuri’s (TWOONE) ‘X-ray of a preying mind’ prompt us to reflect upon the sun-god of the Egyptian pantheon, Ra. Ra, a man with the head of a hawk, was the King of the Gods and patron to the pharaohs, and considered by many as the universal creator. As with modern civilisations, prehistoric cultures linked animals with aspects of humanity. The hawk, a bird of prey, ruled the air and therefore became a symbol for the sun. Important too were the lion, whose mane held the colours of solar rays, and the ram, whose spiraling horns represented the waxing of the sun’s strength.
That there is religious iconography present in his work at all is somewhat of a misnomer as TWOONE has long considered his hybrid creatures to be ‘psychological portraits’, a reflection of the inner characteristics of a particular being, rather than a direct mythological or religious position. Yet the very nature of his portraits, with their spherical halos, their sun discs and their triumphant postures, recalls the emotionally charged art of The Renaissance and Baroque periods.
In his formative years in Japan, reference material came by the way of National Geographic magazines, which perhaps accounts for the ties to these deities, but what has shaped TWOONE’s immediately recognisable figures over the course of his career is his commitment to understanding the limits of the materials with which he works in order to progress his mark-making. His compulsion to push a medium – any medium – sets him apart from the majority of his contemporaries. He had to establish himself after moving from Japan to Australia in 2004, and reestablish himself again since relocating to Germany at the end of 2013. As an outsider in each of these countries, where language has always been an obstacle, TWOONE has turned to his art practice into his voice.
With the introduction of Perspex and fluorescent light in this series, TWOONE has again discovered a new process by which to define his subjects. His treatment of paint on the Perspex surface is in stark contrast to that on his canvases. Working in reverse, TWOONE builds up the paint before pushing, pulling and wiping it away to reveal the image. It has required him to be more physically instinctive and responsive than ever before. It has also left a lot to chance, particularly the tonal range left by a smudge or a scrape that could never be completely controlled and is only revealed in full under the fluorescent lighting. As they glow beyond the outer edges of the frame, these paintings appear to not only to mimic an x-ray in their skeletal framework, but to again fortify the ties to sun gods of light and warmth as radiating beings.
Be it through his large-scale wall works, his deftly crafted ceramic busts or his prolific painting practice, TWOONE’s distinctive take on humanity and the animal kingdom is profound. It is conceivable that TWOONE is intentionally recording these figures as creatures to be worshipped, much like the deities of ancient civilisations. It is also possible that these works are in fact a subconscious, spiritual belief played out through his art practice. Whatever the case may be, TWOONE is an artist resisting categorisation.