'Avant-garde art thus revolutionizes the perspective of what beauty means, and at the same time shows what human existence is like'. 1 – SHOZO SHIMAMOTO
GOING BEYOND VISUAL EXPERIENCE
Shozo Shimamoto believes that art is not merely for visual appreciation, and urges that art is an experience. Shimamoto's art philosophy derives from his complete focus on humanity's heaven-sent senses, feelings and energy. From the end of the 1950s, Shimamoto developed the art performance "Bottle Crash" which combined human energy with avant-garde art, but which was also pioneering post-war "action art", and proposed a constant expansion of the "artistic experience."
The art performance "Bottle Crash" is a manifestation of energy, including Shimamoto's own kinetic energy, acoustic energy, and free will (Fig. 1). Shimamoto's kinetic energy, via his arms, uses glass bottles or plastic cups filled with liquid pigment and thrown in the air, and this liquid pigment combines with Shimamoto's energy. In this empty space (Fig. 2), the liquid pigment has a "time" (the interval between when the bottle is thrown and when it lands), and "space" (the distance between the point from which the bottle is thrown and the canvas, which opens up another independent life. When Shimamoto finishes a performance he is tired, and this attests to the transfer and depletion of energy. Untitled (Lot 434) challenges traditional pictorial space, composition, colour and lighting. Impressions from rubbing, drips, scratches, broken glass bonding to paint, etc. the semiautomatically entangled vortex colour, these incidental visual effects are rendered in ways a brush cannot express.
AH: CHALLENGING THE TRADITION
In 1972, Shimamoto established the aU (art Unidentified/ artist's Union) association, whose members hailed from both Japan and abroad. Shimamoto adhered to the Gutai world view, and proposed international exchanges, allowing people of different nationalities to share with each other, communicate, engage in exchanges, and cooperate. Furthermore, as a pioneer of "Mail art" in asia, Shimamoto challenged high art and advocated public participation. Began in europe, mail art oppose high art and commodification of art . Through the international postal system, people paid postage, and sent art collections free of charge to each other for pure appreciation.
In the 1970s, Shimamoto proposed a topic for free interpretation, and then invited the public to send their works to him. Prior to internet era, the project encourages the idea of everyone can be artist which is traditionally being perceived must be well trained and equipped with knowledge.
'"Ah" as in "ahtow" in the Chinese language means "that" by itself, thus serving as a demonstrative pronoun. Combined with "bootsu", however, "ahtowbootsu" denotes something ignoble or something to be despised.' 1
For Shimamoto, the character "ah" implies challenging the tradition. "Under the theme of "ah", therefore, I was determined to refuse or defy the expression of authority as seen in works of art not only in Europe but also elsewhere in the world. What inspired me and encouraged me most in this effort was "GUTaI", whose spirit is embodied in the activities of "post art" 2
"Ah" is Shimamoto's artistic proposition, and has become a symbol emblematic of subversion. He superimposed "ah" on portrait photos, and added this symbol to magazine,while trying to cut it out in cardboard and send it to people all over the world. In addition, he composed "ah" at the middle of paintings, thus forming a strong statement. The "Ah" created in 1976 (Lot 435), uses a bold black oil colour with which "ah" is inscribed on the white canvas and occupies almost the entire picture,and thus reflects his concept and passion, while also representing how Japanese avant-garde artists questioned the past and moved forward.
1 "My own interpretation of art under the theme of "ah", written by Shozo Shimamoto, Japan art Press Center, Japan, July 1981.