White Noise – Abstract Paintings by Hideaki Yamanobe

Scratch 2012 – Sudden Rain, 2012
Scratch 2012 – Sudden Rain, 2012

Japanese painter Hideaki Yamanobi’s discreet, minimal paintings are a masterclass in understatement, exploring how subtle nuances of colour and texture can convey quietly brewing mystery. Uneven passages of white paint are built up slowly onto dark grounds through a sensitive and intuitive process, forming billowing puffs of white noise and interference. Sometimes, these are scraped into to create irregular channels of texture and line, lending them a greater rugged, hand-made quality.

Scratch S-41 - Memory, 2014, Acrylic on Nettle
Scratch S-41 – Memory, 2014, Acrylic on Nettle

Yamanobe’s paintings encourage us to slow down and spend time unravelling hidden meanings, some of which are alluded to in his ambiguous titles. In Scratch 2012 – Sudden Rain, 2012, bold streaks of vertical paint are scratched into with fine, thin lines suggesting angry, lashing streaks of rain slashing across an interior window pane. Scratch – S41 – Memory, 2014 nods towards a more melancholy, nostalgic moment only partially remembered in paint, as opaque white is streaked in uneven brushstrokes, leaving the darkened black ground peeking through.

Square Garden 2020-3, 2020, Acrylic on Nettle
Square Garden 2020-3, 2020, Acrylic on Nettle

Born in Japan, yet having spent most of his adult life living in Germany, Yamanobe weaves both eastern and western influences into his practice. The Japanese and Chinese tradition for sparse, open landscapes in reduced monochrome colours can clearly be seen in many of his quiet black and white scenes. In Square Garden 2020-3, 2020, white paint becomes a thin, trembling veil as light and translucent as morning fog rising through trees. Art historian Dr. Peter Lodermeyer observes how these white puffs in Yamanobe’s art nod towards both the freezing cold aspects of Japanese landscape such as “dense snow flurries,” and the hot nature of steam in “Japanese open air steam baths.”

Voice of the Forest 2019-4, 2019
Voice of the Forest 2019-4, 2019

Voice of the Forest, 2019, is equally quiet and mysterious as a series of thin, vertical scraped lines flicker across the painted surface suggesting the craggy, jagged forms of bare, brittle trees in a wintery forest. These crooked, scraped lines are made with the bamboo stalks of traditional Japanese fans (uchiwa), connecting Yamanobe’s process with the Japanese natural world, along with the naturally derived nettle fabric they are painted on.

Indigo Night No 1, 2020, Acrylic on Nettle
Indigo Night No 1, 2020, Acrylic on Nettle

Yamanobe merges these Japanese landscape traditions with various influences from western 20th century abstraction. Piano Phase – Sound Stiftung II, 2020, nods towards the gestural Abstract Expressionist painting of Franz Kline and Willem De Kooning with bold, angular shards of paint built up in a series of layers to suggest the musicality of movement and space. In Indigo Night No 1, 2020, thin paint is streaked over an indigo blue backdrop to create a monochrome field of pale, rippling colour, mirroring the trembling, textural Colour Field paintings of Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still. But in contrast with the ‘all-over’ effects of Abstract Expressionist and Colour Field painting, Yamanobe’s paintings are often left darker towards the edges, lending them the shadowy, atmospheric theatricality of a stage set, where white light, noise and drama plays out in the centre.

Piano Phase - Sound Stiftung II, 2020, Acrylic on Nettle
Piano Phase – Sound Stiftung II, 2020, Acrylic on Nettle

Square Garden 2020-5 - 2020, Acrylic on Paper on Wood
Square Garden 2020-5 – 2020, Acrylic on Paper on Wood

Front of the Facade - 2020, Acrylic on Nettle
Front of the Facade – 2020, Acrylic on Nettle