As a founding leader of Gutai, the creative career of Jiro Yoshihara - beyond just his service as the spiritual mentor to the Gutai artists - also warrants investigation. Yoshihara’s life creation style could be divided into several phases, from his adolescence spent depicting still life-, surrealism during his stint with the Nika-kai and leadership of the abstract expressionist art of the Gutai era, to his later years in which circles predominated. Just as life transforms with age and its consequent maturity of mind, so Yoshihara’s creative style reflects his own condition at any given time. Yoshihara's passing one year ago brought his circle to a close, although it’s not that ebullient anymore, but as the body and soul he reflects in his works depict the greatest sense of calm bliss and contented repletion that comes from a successful life.
Yoshihara began creating his classic circle series in 1962. He once stated: "Even if it is just a circle, I am never sated with it, never weary of its creation." One can see there within his own needs, and also his penchant for attempting even small adjustments to personality. Objectively speaking, the circle series, which is in fact a single colour (monochrome) whose circularity strictly constrains its theme, yet it nevertheless contrives to showcase Yoshihara’s infinite diversity, simple, yet not simple, similar, yet entirely dissimilar, and achieves through his subtle adeptness extremely maximal effects. The white circle on a black background in this work is stark, yet tranquil, ever more disdainful of stock-labels like good and bad, and thus it espouses an expansive philosophy of life that is all-inclusive.
In Eastern aesthetics, the circle is often viewed as a Zen symbol, because this best reflects the notion that "Nothing can claim endlessness: there is a flower, there is the moon, and there is the tower" as the Northern Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo observed about Zen. In seeking to encompass good things, therefore, people must not limit themselves to visual or material perception, but strive to conceive using the power of mind, brain, heart. Self-enlightenment is thus the best path. Though the circle may be said to be either hollow or solid, yet Yoshihara’s quest of or arrival in this realm suggests that he is viewing something from nothing in either case.
When he founded the Gutai Art Association, beside to create art that others have never done, he also emphasis rests on a disregard of actual conditions and a sound mind that self-enriches one’s own cherished ideals. Yoshihara was thus not merely a leader or guidance for Gutai artists: he also stood as the finest exemplar for artist in later generation.