KAZUO SHIRAGA (1924-2008)
KAZUO SHIRAGA (1924-2008)
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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED EUROPEAN COLLECTION
KAZUO SHIRAGA (1924-2008)

Mo-shun (Early Spring)

KAZUO SHIRAGA (1924-2008)
Mo-shun (Early Spring)
signed in Japanese (lower left); signed and titled in Japanese (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
18 x 21in. (45.6 x 53.2cm.)
Painted in 1980
Tokyo Gallery and Beijing Art Projects, Tokyo.
Private Collection, Japan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Further details
This work is accompanied by a certificate of registration issued by the Japan Art Dealers Association.

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Anna Touzin
Anna Touzin Specialist, Head of Day Sale

Lot Essay

Kazuo Shiraga’s Mo-shun (Early Spring) swells with unrestrained vigour: bright yellow, eddies of red, and smears of white fill the canvas. A single streak of blue sweeps across the impasto surface. The vibrant, luminous colours evoke sensations of rejuvenation, renewal, and, like the work’s title suggests, an upswelling of energy. Indeed, Mo-shun (Early Spring) is both an image and the physical embodiment of the act of painting. As an influential member of Gutai, the post-war art movement in Japan whose members explored the relationship between material and activity, Shiraga’s canvases capture a raw dynamism. To merge fully with his materials, he often used unconventional tools such as wooden spatulas and squeegees to his own feet. These methods could be taxing: In endeavouring to ‘create paintings with no composition or no sense of colours, no nothing’, Shiraga gave his whole self to his compositions (K. Shiraga, in ‘Osaka Action Talk: From an Interview by Haryu Ichiro (1973)’ in Kazuo Shiraga: Six Decades, exh. cat. McCaffrey Fine Art, New York 2010, p. 62). For the artist, the canvas no longer served as a mirror onto the world but rather the locus of action itself. Painted in 1980, Mo-shun (Early Spring) represents a pivotal moment in Shiraga’s practice and the last vestiges of Gutai in his art; during the subsequent decade he would turn towards new theoretical considerations.

Owing to his interest in melding gesture and medium, Shiraga’s paintings are often discussed in dialogue with Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, which were similarly physically taxing. Although he was fascinated by the Abstract Expressionist’s canvases, Shiraga worked to tease out a more complete understanding of the relationship between image, spirit, and body. As Yoshihara Jiro, a leader of Gutai, explained, ‘In Gutai Art, the human spirit and the material shake hands with each other, but keep their distance. The material never compromises itself with the spirit; the spirit never dominates the material’ (Y. Jiro, ‘Gutai Manifesto 1956’, reproduced in A. Munroe, Japanese Art After 1945: Scream Against the Sky, New York 1994, p. 84). By melding both Japanese and Western traditions, Shiraga forged a radical visual idiom centred upon the body. Works such as the present retain clear traces of the artist’s hand which can be seen in the painting’s gestural qualities and chromatic potency. Indeed, the intensity of Mo-shun (Early Spring) reaches beyond the confines of the canvas towards a spiritual plane.

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