Outsider drawn to the
circle of life
by Edward M. Gómez
Nov 5, 2013
“The discovery and promotion of works by self-taught or outsider artists — those who are not academically trained and create their works primarily for themselves, mostly beyond the cultural-commercial mainstream — are still relatively new activities in Japan.
Against this background, the success of the self-taught, Tokyo-based artist Hiroyuki Doi is remarkable. Since late 2002, when New York’s now-closed Phyllis Kind Gallery first presented a solo show of his ink-on-paper abstractions, the now 67-year-old former restaurant masterchef has become one of the best-known artists in the self-taught/outsider category in the United States and Western Europe. As one of the rare representatives in that field from Japan, his work has enjoyed crossover appeal to collectors in the more avant-garde, contemporary-art sector, too.
Now, with “Hiroyuki Doi: Pen & Art,” a mini-retrospective of his small and large drawings of recent years at Pen Station Museum near Kyobashi subway station in central Tokyo’s Chuo Ward, the artist is enjoying both a homecoming to and a debut in Japan at the same time.
Doi’s first big break overseas came when he and his business manager and, now, Tokyo-based private dealer, Yoshiko Otsuka, made a cold call on the legendary New York gallerist Phyllis Kind in 2001. At that time, Kind was adamantly not looking at anyone’s portfolios. Her stable of artists was full. Still, Kind, a pioneer in the outsider field, examined Doi’s unusual drawings, in which agglomerations of tiny circles swell and churn, resembling grand, celestial constellations or billowing cloud formations. Painstakingly executed, their character is serene and meditative. At first glance, they seem to share a formal or visual affinity with classic East Asian ink-brush painting, but technically their mode of production is completely different…”