Lot 1012A
  • 1012A

Shiraga Kazuo

8,000,000 - 12,000,000 HKD
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  • Shiraga Kazuo
  • Enjihen (Crimson Rouge) 
  • oil on canvas
signed in Japanese; signed and titled in Japanese and English and dated 2004 on the reverse, framed


Private American Collection 


Japan, Amagasaki, Amagasaki Cultural Centre, 25th Shusaku Bijutsuten, Amagasaki Arts and Culture Association, 2-12 February, 2006

Catalogue Note

Crimson Rouge: On Beauty and Brutality
Shiraga Kazuo

[Shiraga] is simultaneously involved in two very different aesthetic universes: the existential expressiveness of Western art and the pantheist transcendence of Oriental art. – Antonio Saura1

Hailing from Shiraga Kazuo's fully mature period late in his post-Gutai years, Enjihen (Crimson Rouge) (Lot 1012A) is a ferocious, churning maelstrom of energy that is at once violent, poetic, and gracefully centered. The stunning masterpiece is exemplary of Shiraga's accomplished post-Gutai era, which witnessed a liberated freedom and evolution in psyche following his studies and training as a Tendai Buddhist monk. Employing the crimson lake pigment archetypical of Shiraga's earliest works in the 1950s to 1960s, the current lot recalls the raw brutality of war and the bloodshed of Japanese matsuri festivals with an elevated monastic consciousness: simultaneously aggressive and alluring, at once tempestuous and seductive, Shiraga's late paintings supersede anguish with "sublimity and calm",2 constituting an "explosion of poetry" manifested in centered balladic tension.

The pared down palette, characteristic of Shiraga's post-Gutai works, accentuates the artist's virtuosic strokes. Executed with an exuberant, triumphant flourish, Shiraga's feet strokes exude potent velocity, tension and grace, attesting to the perfection of his matured feet technique and acrobatic movements. Emanating from his turbulent swipes is a sense of buoyant jubilation: whilst preserving the volcanic tactility of his early years, the current lot is celebratory and exultant, proclaiming that the demons of war, trauma and defeat had been exorcised. In it we witness Shiraga raised from his angst, reveling in the formidable authority of body, paint and spirit. Art for Shiraga was always regenerative, a means of connecting with himself, through himself – one recalls the conclusion of his iconic 1955 performance Challenging Mud, upon which fellow Gutai artist Kanayama Akira wrote that Shiraga rose from the work "as if emerging from a bath, refreshed".3

Shiraga said that his art "needs not just beauty, but something horrible".4 By engaging with violence, both conceptually and physically, Shiraga was able to "wrestl[e] with the demons that haunted him and his generation, at the same time opening the possibility of hope for the years ahead".5 The current lot is thus a work not of anger or violence but that of ecstasy and emancipation, or of surrender to the gods: endowing the deity Fudō with creative life-force as well as the power to heal trauma, Shiraga wrote that "with his back embraced with impetuous flames while the sea was churning at his feet, Fudō wants to extinguish the flames of hate and of human anger".6 In Ming Tiampo's words, for Shiraga, "violence as a subject of artistic inquiry was an exploration of humanity [...] Brutality could not be ignored [...] but needed to be addressed as a necessary aspect of the human condition".7

1 Antonio Saura, "Shiraga ne peint pas avec les pieds", exh. cat. Kazuo Shiraga, Toulouse, 1993
2 Ming Tiampo, cited in Carol Strickland, "Seeing Red: Understanding Kazuo Shiraga's Sudden Fame", Momus, 2015
3 Kanayama Akira, "Shiraga Kazuo", Gutai, no. 4, 1955, p. 9
4 Shiraga Kazuo, interview with Ming Tiampo, Ashiya, Japan, 1998
5 Ming Tiampo, "Not just beauty, but something horrible", in exh. cat. Body and Matter: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Satoru Hoshino, New York, 2015, p. 23
6 Shiraga Kazuo, "Le dieu Fudō et me painture", trans. Agnes Takahashi, in Kazuo Shiraga, exh. cat., 1993
7 Refer to 5, p. 22