126
126
Shiraga Kazuo
UNTITLED
Estimate
350,000550,000
LOT SOLD. 375,000 HKD
JUMP TO LOT
126
Shiraga Kazuo
UNTITLED
Estimate
350,000550,000
LOT SOLD. 375,000 HKD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Brushwork III – Abstract Masters

|
Hong Kong

Shiraga Kazuo
1924 - 2008
UNTITLED
signed in Japanese; signed in Japanese and English on the reverse
Executed circa 1970s - 80s
oil on canvas
27.3 by 22.2 cm; 10¾ by 8¾ in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Private Collection, Japan
Christie's, South Kensington, 14 October 2015, lot 5
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Catalogue Note

Without [chanting], I feel uneasy and I don't want to paint. After chanting practice, I feel at ease, because I can entrust it to Fudo. I feel this is the way of Truth.

Shiraga Kazuo


Avenue of Enlightenment

From the 1970s onwards, Shiraga Kazuo's creations reveal a heightened monastic consciousness, testament to the artist’s increasing engagement with Esoteric Buddhism. In his post-Gutai years Shiraga experienced an emancipative evolution in psyche following his intense training as a Tendai Buddhist monk at the Enryaku-ji monastery in 1971. When he resumed painting the following year, he began titling his compositions in reference to Buddhist deities. Hailing from this singular post-1971 era of the artist's career, the three works Untitled, Goshoku Zanmai and Jikkai-zu Gaki Chikushokai reveal Shiraga’s deep and profound knowledge and commitment to his spiritual pursuits, whilst also displaying an expanded range of methodology. In the 1970s, Shiraga revisited painterly tools such as wooden poles, boards and squeegees that he had previously experimented with in the 1950s. These implementations signify an evolution in Shiraga's physical and spiritual relationship with is art. Ming Tiampo, co-Curator of Gutai: Splendid Playground at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum observes that Shiraga's abstract expressions in the 1970s "take on an equally energetic, but more peaceful sensibility". Inspired by Buddhist learnings, the present works encapsulate the artist’s ceaseless exploration of the limits of body, art and spirit.

Exhibiting exuberant swipes of red and yellow with a single sublime swathe of white, Untitled is an exquisitely jubilant work. While Shiraga is primarily known for his ground-breaking method of painting with his feet, the dexterous swipe of a squeegee is traceable at the center of this work, emanating a sense of transcendent triumph. Art for Shiraga was always liberating and cathartic: one recalls the epic unforgettable scene at the conclusion of his seminal 1955 performance Challenging Mud, upon which fellow Gutai artist Kanayama Akira wrote that Shiraga arose from the work “as if emerging from a bath, refreshed” (Kanayama Akira, “Shiraga Kazuo”, Gutai, no. 4, 1955, p. 9). Central to Shiraga’s potent gesturality is the concept of shishitsu, meaning “innate characteristics and abilities”, which serves as the driving force behind the shaping of the self. Making art was a way for the legendary master to fully connect with his shishitsu - a means to connect with himself, through himself.

Goshoku Zanmai is another exemplary work from Shiraga's mature practice. The title of the piece refers to the five colours on the flags of the Buddhist sects, namely blue, yellow, red, white and orange, demonstrating the artist's deep commitment to his spiritual pursuits. In Therevada Buddhism, the uniting of the five colours constituted the Sakyamuni's radiance of enlightenment; while in Esoteric Buddhism, the circle is a fundamental form of contemplation and an important symbol of Dainichi Nyorai (Vairocana), or the celestial Buddha. In Goshoku Zanmai, the five colours whirl within a compelling circle, imbuing vitality and tension into the composition. At the same time, the piece exudes a centred sense of balance and peace even as the swirling vortex continues on its ceaseless journey. The five colours of Goshoku Zanmai evoke the colours of the Five Elements Theory, in which gold (white), wood (blue), water (black), fire (red) and earth (yellow) intermingle and form the basic structure of nature; the work at the same time seems to allude to the Buddhist Flower Garland Sutra which teaches “all is one, one is all” – nothing is ever created or destroyed, but merely transformed from one form to another.

Created around the same time as Goshoku Zanmai , the piece Jikkai-zu Gaki Chikushokai reflects a fascinating and even more complex facet of Shiraga’s Buddhist training. Exhibiting a more brooding palette, the piece conveys intensity via the concise yet focused potency of the artist’s brushwork, bringing to life the world of purgatory within the Ten Realms. The deep umber, ochre red and black hues evoke the burning fires of hell, while the vital touches of royal blue allude to the sorrows and sufferings of the wretched of ages past. Against these shadows, the single sublime arc of brilliantly incandescent yellow represents a resilient torch of hope, redemption and enlightenment. The Tendai sect and Enryaku-ji hold dear to a longstanding history of austere and highly physicalized spiritual practice, which includes ascetic meditation and the practice of martial arts in isolated mountains. For them, the Ten Realms can be experienced through arduous pilgrimages to a series of temples along holy mountains such as Enryaku-ji on Mount Hiei, which would eventually lead to Enlightenment. This approach towards spirituality and transcendence coincides with Shiraga’s corporeal and often violent artistic endeavours. Shiraga once described Japan’s post-war euphoria of political, social and economic liberation as a “splendid playground”. At once vigorously assertive and graceful, the power and elegance of the current lots stands as testament to Shiraga’s profound joy of relentless creation, innovation, and technical and spiritual refinement.

Brushwork III – Abstract Masters

|
Hong Kong