KAZUO SHIRAGA (1924-2008)
signed in Japanese (lower left); signed and dated 'Kazuo Shiraga 1969' (on the backing board)
oil on canvas laid on board
60 x 38 cm. (23 5/8 x 15 in.)
Painted in 1969
Tokyo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Gallery Kasahara, Osaka, Japan
SCAI the Bathhouse, Tokyo, Japan
Private Collection, USA (Acquired from the above by the present owner)
The work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity by Japan Art Dealers Association.

Brought to you by

Ada Tsui (徐文君)
Ada Tsui (徐文君)

Lot Essay

Paint and paintbrush are the two crucial tools for painters. This seemingly obvious combination applies to most painters across art history, but Kazuo Shiraga, who pioneered in disrupting this formula, and substituting himself as an art tool. His artworks explore originality, gestural abstraction and the beauty of spontaneity.

Kazuo Shiraga is the leading voice of the Gutai artist group (1954-1972) active in Hanshin region of Japan. The avant-garde Gutai artists constantly strive to 'do what no-one has done before' and provoke new thinking in art during the postwar period. The rebellious Shiraga daringly deconstructs artistic theories of the past and utilises his body, fingers and feet as instruments of expression. He became internationally prominent after French critic Michel Tapie promoted the artworks of the Gutai in Europe and the US.

In Untitled, the mixed-colour patches executed in curvy strokes against a flat yellow background, also captivates the energetic flow of the artist's bodily movement. Untitled is entirely covered with thick paint in the Western style of Abstract Expressionism. By giving up the use of the common artist tool, Shiraga liberates the constraint of past artistic traditions and constructs a new form of art that combines drama, dance and painting.

Besides remaining faithful to the artistic practice of body painting throughout his artistic career, Shiraga also favours the use of colour red to achieve different compositional effects. The wash of crimson red in the background of Untitled gives volume and layering to the dynamic black and white strokes above. The multiple shades of scarlet, carnelian and blood red contrast with the other bright colours and together captivate the flow of Shiraga's lively strokes. In Japanese culture, the colour red represents strength, passion, selfsacrifice and blood. Moreover, the reasons behind Shiraga's preference for using red in his provocative body paintings, after his traumatic experience of World War II, is left vacant for one's interpretation.

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