Ideology and Morphology: The Transfigured Personalities of Yu Sugawara

On Art and Aesthetics

Yu Sugawara

In his highly original paintings, Japanese artist Yu Sugawara creates transfigured individuals—he says he gives “morphology” to “ideology”, that is, structure and shape to a person’s thoughts and emotions, an incarnation to his spirit.

“The essence of a human being is fantasy,” writes Yu. “A cognitive revolution occurred in the transition period from an ape (monkey) to a person (human) in the history of our species, and people got a world of huge ideas in their minds. That ability was ‘to be able to handle something that does not really exist.'”

Yu sees everything as a construct and creation—from rules to nations to God—a product of our extraordinary capacity for dreaming and mythmaking. His paintings are basically metamorphosed portraits where he innovatively depicts the mental processes of characters (as in stewards, writers, geographers) or some behavioural quality (say, trust between a man and a woman). He stretches the skin…

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