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.
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