Japanese Modernism Across Media

Flowers & Landscapes

Necessary Things for Achieving an Effective Resurrection in a Short Period of Time

Matsui Fuyuko, Necessary Things for Achieving an Effective Resurrection in a Short Period of Time (2003)

Although Matsui is known best for her depictions of women and the supernatural, much less attention has been placed on Matsui's elegant yet haunting landscapes and ethereal depictions of fauna. These flowers and landscapes create an important dialogue with past works of nihonga which also follow a similar style, yet deviate in ways unique to Matsui's overall personal style of sketching and painting. The landscapes also usually correspond to larger themes related to pain and suffering, such as in the interactive neatline exhibit below, Becoming Friends with All the Children in the World (2004) which is based on the famous suicide forest in Japan, Aoikigahara. 

In regards to the above painting, Necessary Things for Achieving an Effective Resurrection in a Short Period of Time, Matsui has stated the following:

"I have portrayed the tragedy of lemmings commiting mass suicide by drowning in a lake. In a certain country, lemmings come down from theforests in large groups every few years. Compelled by an irrestible urge, they press forward, overcoming every obstacle in their path without fear so as to kill themselves by leaping into the sea. An ultra self-destructive behavior caused by a kind of mass hysteria."1

Suicide, madness, and hysteria. What at first glance appeared to be animals floating in water in an image reminiscent of water lilies or cherry blossom petals floating on a lake is immediately twisted, depicting a gaping wound of trauma and despair. The muted coloring of the lake blends and contrasts against the white, luminescent depictions of the lemmings' corpses. Yet in spite of that horrific tragedy the painting displays, there is still a sense of disassociation between the viewer and the painting, as if the surface beauty of the image depicted prevents a total response of abjection and breakdown once the eyes have had time to absorb the ugly, twisted meaning that is always lying in wait beneath. 


1. Matsui, Fuyuko. The Collected Works of Matsui Fuyuko, Part Two (Matsui Fuyuko Gashū ) 松井冬子画集. 2 2. Tokyo: Edition Toreviru, 2008.

Additional Works