When [artworks] are produced, the artists and all those involved continue to work as though in prayer, never stopping until 'beauty' that is apparent to any beholder emerges, no matter how many years it takes. As the times change, doubts may emerge, and the purpose for forging ahead may get lost at times. But when they force the production to propel through the finish line, fundamental 'beauty' emerges; that is when a work worthy of devotion is born. —Takashi Murakami
Perrotin Matignon is pleased to present Healing, an exhibition of works by Kaikai Kiki artists Chiho Aoshima, Yukimasa Ida, Emi Kuraya Kasing Lung, MADSAKI, Takashi Murakami, Shin Murata, ob, Otani Workshop, Aya Takano, TENGAone and Yuji Ueda. This exhibition comes after a first episode of this group show curated by Takashi Murakami last summer at Perrotin Seoul.
Healing explores the multifaceted and eccentric universe that is Takashi Murakami's Superflat and the far-reaching and deep influence of Japanese ceramic arts in the context of Bubblewrap1. Where in the West art is predicated on the differences between 'highbrow' and 'lowbrow' culture, 'original' and 'derivative,' 'art' and 'commodity,' Superflat establishes itself as an independent lineage of Japanese contemporary art that roots itself in anime and manga.
Takashi Murakami first coined the term Superflat in his examination of postwar Japanese society, where the boundary between traditional and contemporary culture was perceived to be 'flat'. Past and present, original and derivative, highbrow culture and lowbrow culture merge as one in Superflat, subverting the discourse of Western conventional divisions and challenging their legacy in the contemporary art landscape with an idiosyncratic Japanese sensibility.
The radical affiliation and lack of distinction between post-war Japan's fine arts and popular arts is strongly linked to otaku2 culture. In its infantile and marginal existence, the world of otaku could be seen as similar to post-war Japanese society. This isolated world establishes one of fantasy, rooted in the need to overcome reality—a reality where otaku (as social outcasts) are excluded from mainstream society and its value systems.
The theme of alienation and/or disconnect is prevalent in the works of MADSAKI and TENGAone, although not themselves otaku. Both artists are heavily influenced by graffiti and use the medium to express the frustration and feeling of estrangement brought about by their bicultural identities. Street art is also an influence for Kasing Lung, whose's work is influenced by the economic and cultural boom of the 80's. The fastness and emergency of life run throughout Yukimasa Ida's work, which is deeply marked by the theme of 'ICHI-GO-ICHI-E' (a once in a lifetime moment).
In a Superflat world, the otaku becomes the true driver of contemporary culture. As part of the new generation of artists who grew up in an environment where video games and social media have always been part of daily life, also known as Japan's SNS generation, ob explores the dreamy filter of the feminine psyche through kawaii elements: sweet, saturated colour; cartoon-like forms; and over-scaled heads with wide eyes and baby faces.
This intersection of reality and fantasy is an important dimension of Superflat that is perhaps best illustrated in the works of Chiho Aoshima and Aya Takano. Both artists present the viewer with fantastical worlds of a utopian nature. Aoshima's liminal spaces are populated by female characters who are transformed into mountains and rivers, disguised as fairies or represented as living creatures in the natural world. This breakdown of the boundaries between humans and animals or plants, and between organic creatures and inanimate objects is echoed in Aya Takano's oeuvre. The latter's floating figures, unphased by the restrictions of gravity, are at one with the universe, conversing with other-worldly animals and plants. There is no hierarchy in either Aoshima or Takano's work, all cohabitate in perfect harmony, all are equal, much like Superflat itself. This soft fantasy is also reminiscent in Emi Kuraya's works. Her delicate brush stroke and highly-skilled drawing ability have brought up the sense light-weighted feeling in her oil painting. By her daily observations, Emi confers unique and strong personal style in each of her characters.
A new generation of Japanese ceramicists that Murakami dubs 'radical artists': Shin Murata, Yuji Ueda and Otani Workshop shed the principle of artisanal technique and adopt the posture of artists, pushing the boundary between ceramics and sculpture (or as Superflat would have it, between 'commodity' and 'art'). Their unique pottery methods merge a respect for tradition and lineage with improvisation and experimentation, in a body of work informed by their love of nature and sustainable lifestyle.
Superflat focuses not only on contemporary art, but extends itself to contemporary ceramics. However, it is Bubblewrap, a term humorously coined3 by Takashi Murakami to describe the interim period between Mono-ha and Superflat overlapping with Japan's bubble economy, that best reflects the modern realm of ceramics. Indeed, the rise and maturation of ceramic art is juxtaposed with Japan's Bubble Economy era. It is at this time that the 'ceramics of modern life' appear. These ceramics represent a shift and new phase in the history of ceramics: their popularisation. Ceramics thus become, like manga and anime, another popular art of post-war Japanese culture.
The exhibition features for the first-time ink calligraphies on coffee filter papers by Takashi Murakami. In these imaginative calligraphic works on used coffee-filters, Murakami brings together a number of his key concerns into an innovative form. The artist studied calligraphy from when he was five to when he was seventeen—mostly at the insistence of his mother, who is passionate about calligraphy and talks about it 'in every conversation that we have', as Murakami himself says.
The five used Chemex coffee-filter calligraphies have a strong poetic and Zen Buddhist quality: the work displayed in the middle is the character for 'beauty' (either bi or utsukushi in Japanese pronunciation) surrounded by an Enso, the freehand circle drawn with a brush thatfollowers of Zen Buddhism paint as a form of spiritual practice, and of free, unencumbered motion. For Murakami, born in 1962, it is also a reminder of the way in which technology, and computer culture more specifically, grew hand in hand with the rise of a New Age form of philosophy, in which both high-tech and meditative practices were getting popular.
Healing illustrates the undeniable importance of Superflat and Bubblewrap in the contemporary art scene, disrupting the symbolic order of Western Art History. Incessantly moving between past, present and future, while mixing high culture and popular culture indiscriminately, is a 'superflat' group of works devoid of prejudice or boundaries: a truly free expression of creativity and beauty
1 'After Mono-ha, the next established art movement is Superflat, but that means the interim period overlapping the years of Japan's economic bubble has yet to be named, and I think calling it "Bubblewrap" suits it well. It especially makes sense if you incorporate the realm of ceramics.' —Takashi Murakami
2 Otaku is a Japanese term for people with consuming interests, particularly in anime and manga. The otaku subculture began in the 1980s and continued to grow with the resignation of such individuals to become social outcasts and the expansion of the internet.
3 Bubblewrap is a word play on 'bubble economy' and 'bubble wrap,' the material used to wrap and protect ceramics. Takashi Murakami is suggesting bubble wrap is reflective of the Japanese aesthetic of appreciation of fragility and honourable poverty.
Press release courtesy Perrotin.