New York, November 16, 2021—Sundaram Tagore is pleased to present a new collection of Waterfall paintings by Hiroshi Senju. For the first time, the artist takes us behind his cascading curtains of water, directing our gaze toward the beauty of the natural world that lies beyond. The exhibition marks the opening of our newly expanded 7,000-sq.ft. Chelsea Gallery at 542 W. 26th Street.
Hiroshi Senju has been conveying in paint nature's power and ability to inspire awe for more than 30 years. He began exploring the waterfall image in the 1990s and today, they are in public spaces and museum collections worldwide, including those of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, where a site-specific Waterfall is on view in a gallery designed by Tadao Ando through March 13, 2022.
Senju's falls are often inspired by natural landscapes, including the rugged, almost prehistoric terrain of northern Oahu, where cascades of water flow over ancient cliffs (Beginnings, 2020). However, this new body of work is a pure expression of the artist's unfettered imagination, a visually resplendent response to working in isolation at his New York studio throughout 2020.
To capture the spectrum of colour he had conjured in his mind for this series, Senju turned to manmade pigments, in addition to the bespoke natural pigments he traditionally uses. Produced in Japan, these pigments are derived from coloured glass composed of high-fired glaze and metal oxide and are made using the same care and exacting standards as his natural pigments.
Although Senju is widely known for his black-and-white Waterfalls, his skill as a colourist is clearly evident in this body of work, particularly in a suite of four paintings in which nuanced shifts in tone and shade not only evoke the sensation of falling water, but the essence of the changing seasons. 'When you see the world from the inside of a waterfall, the soft hues of spring flowers will be seen through the falling water as a field of colours,' he says. 'In the same way, summer is the harmony of various greens. Autumn is the colour of leaves that become more brilliant just before they fall. In winter, there may be a sense of loneliness after everything has fallen, yet at the same time, there is a feeling of renewal.'
In the central work of the show, pictured above, the artist brings together the colours from the four seasons in a sweeping, multi-panel panorama. In this Waterfall, liquid ribbons of red, gold, purple, blue and green appear between towering columns, as if a mist of water droplets is fracturing the light into a spectrum of colour like a prism. At the base of the waterfall, the colours coalesce into a deep, blue-black pool that alludes to the depth below the surface.
Senju's colour explorations also include a small group of Waterfalls that are more distilled. In these works, the waterfall is centred between three distinct colour fields. The relationship between the pair of colours in the background strikes a beautiful balance, yet it's the inclusion of the third colour in the foreground that introduces an unexpected harmony. When selecting the combinations, rather than draw on a specific theme, Senju relied on instinct. 'The colours called for one another,' he says.
Rounding out the range of colours and mediums are three luminous, warm gray Waterfalls made with platinum pigment, a material Senju began using in 2020. He delights in its refined yet understated nature, in which the platinum's lustre plays off the soft white oyster-shell pigment used to articulate the waterfall itself.
Senju purposefully included these subtle, monochrome paintings in this new body of work not as a foil to the more colourful works presented alongside them, but as a way to encourage viewers to see the beauty in diversity and in the world as it is.
Press release courtesy Sundaram Tagore Gallery.