(c)2008 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Murakami was an experienced flower painter long befored he created Flower Ball (3-D) Red Cliff in 2008. As an art student, he had studied nihon-ga, a form of art developed in the Nineteenth Century in order to keep alive the Japanese artistic tradition, and had painted little else for two years. It was in response to this training that Murakami developed his own unique aesthetic, creating an artistic language that is appropriate to modern Japan, an art suited to the world of the otaku. The subject matter is an extension of tradition, yet it has collided with the world of manga and animé; likewise, the crisply futuristic use of platinum leaf around the edges harks back to antique gold-ground screens. Rather than preserve culture in aspic, Murakami has developed a manic, energetic style that collides some of the old artistic motifs and values of Japan with its post-War, post-Disney, commercial existence today. To this end, he invented the concept of the Superflat, developing an aesthetic based on a range of concepts including traditional Japanese perspective, digital screens and breaking down notions of the difference between art and craft imposed by the West after two cultural and literal invasions: the 'Opening of Japan' in the Nineteenth Century and the Occupation following the Second World War.
Perhaps it is as a coda to this investigation and reinvention of Japanese national identity and culture in art that Flower Ball (3-D) Red Cliff is named after a recent movie by the Chinese director John Woo. Red Cliff explores one of the formative moments in Chinese history, being based on the tale of the Battle of Red Cliffs which preceded the Three Kingdoms period. Red Cliff was released in two parts in Asia and as a single abbreviated film in the West; thus, parallel to Murakami's works in neighbouring Japan, the film deals directly with a formative moment in China's national history while concurrently reflecting some of the contemporary complexities of the West's relationship with the East. Likewise, its casting revealed some of the fault-lines within Asia: while several of the actors are Japanese, Ken Watanabe was reputedly rejected after some consideration for the role of Cao Cao, the effective founder of the Kingdom of Wei, because of the potential unpopularity within China of casting a Japanese actor as such a famous historical figure.