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Artcourt Gallery
Tenmabashi 1-8-5,
Osaka 530-0042 Japan   map * 
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Saburo Murakami Solo Exhibition
by Artcourt Gallery
Location: Artcourt Gallery
Artist(s): Saburo MURAKAMI
Date: 7 Mar - 29 Mar 2014

Saburo Murakami’s creative output over the course of his half-century of activity as an artist is truly diverse in its materials and forms. At the same time, however, there is a consistent stance running through this work of his endeavoring to grasp the intercon- nectedness of his life in relationship to the world. Murakami produced a large number of painting works, in addition to his installation-type and conceptual pieces, and it seems that to Murakami, painting was one means for confronting “living” and coming to grips with its each and every moment.

The “Paper-Breaking” (Kami-yaburi) pieces, in which Murakami burst through sheets of kraft paper mounted on wooden frames, were first carried out in the mid-1950s, shortly after he began taking part in the activities of the Gutai Art Association. While often treated as a forerunner of performance art, in its presenting of this screen-breaking itself as a work, “Paper-Breaking” was also an experiment in dismantling the various existing frameworks that have shaped painting, and in seeking beyond them for manifesta- tions of painting’s essence. This exhibition features the early piece All Landscapes (Arayuru Fukei), in which Murakami continued this basic questioning of the underlying structures of painting, and seven paintings produced between 1958 and the late seventies, some of which were rediscovered and repaired only recently and have not been shown publicly in almost fifty years.

The paintings from 1958 to the early sixties, with their unrestrained layerings of vigorous brushstrokes, convey raw, deep impres- sions of the artist’s physicality. Then among the works of the mid-sixties period, are pieces containing frames that have been affixed in such a way as to suppress these strokes, as if the artist were endeavoring to reassess the relationships between himself and his paintings’ surfaces. In the works from the end of the sixties, the violently surging brushstrokes are gone, replaced by semi- automatically realized images of floating lines created by tracing the edges of paper affixed to the canvas. And lastly, there is the piece Trinity, produced some ten years later (1978), which abounds with forcefulness and tranquility, as if the paint materials and the artist’s body and concepts have reached a reasonable accord.

What Murakami was seeking – painting as a concrete “phenomenon” of harmonized thought and action and time and space; and painting as an “experience” that could convey a complete and genuine feeling of being “alive” – was something that could only be realized by way of nonactive creative acts that were not subject to the constraints of a constructing consciousness. In the series of pieces featured in this exhibition, one may observe traces of the adaptable way of life of this artist, who, in his search for such levels of expression through painting, was constantly responding to moment-to-moment changes in his own existence and in the state of the world around him, and who all the while, sometimes with a lighthearted approach and sometimes nagged by doubts, was continually conscious of choosing the optimal methods for each piece so as to develop his art.

All Landscapes, which was first displayed hanging from a tree branch at the Outdoor Gutai Art Exhibition in 1956, was a picture frame for viewing chance cutouts of landscapes. Though at first glance, this piece might be taken as the exact opposite of a work of painting, it would seem that the ideas and attitudes Murakami was pursuing through painting with regard to living and expression are evoked here via more direct gestures, with the work’s mechanism of accentuating a constantly shifting frame-by-frame view in effect turning the relationship between the viewer and the world around the viewer into a place of fluid and dense interaction.

If each of our lives is something spun into being on the basis of our own existences and through all the various points of contact we have with the outside world, then to Murakami, the act of expressing was “living” itself. And it was out of this act of expressing that these works of painting and All Landscapes arose. In this exhibition, through these expressions of forms that stand in sharp contrast yet correlate like the negative and positive prints of a photograph, we are presenting the path forged by an artist who, without ever adhering to a single, fixed format, was unfaltering in his attempts to approach the essence of painting, that is to say, the very essence of life itself.

*image (left)
courtesy of the artist and Artcourt Gallery 

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