Kazuo Shiraga - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 23, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gallery Haku, Osaka
    Private Collection, Osaka
    Private Collection, Belgium
    Axel Vervoordt, Belgium
    Phillips, London, 9 February 2016, lot 28
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Mnuchin Gallery, Kazuo Shiraga, 10 February - 11 April 2014
    Hong Kong, Axel Vervoordt, Kazuo Shiraga, 28 August - 15 November 2014

  • Catalogue Essay

    Kazuo Shiraga was one of the founders of the radical Gutai art movement, developed in 1954 in the wake of the Second World War in Japan. Gutai artists favoured freedom of expression and creativity above anything else, dismantling the regime of total conformity imposed during the war. For these artists, art was a playful medium that freed audiences from ideologies and social conventions. As the writer of the Gutai manifesto, Yoshihara Jiro’s dictum was: “Do what no one has done before!” (Yoshihara Jiro, quoted in 'Gutai Gurupu no 10 nen: Sono ichi' [10 years of the Gutai Group: Part One], Bijutsu January 38, March 1963, pp. 3-5). Shiraga epitomised Gutai’s spirit of playfulness: he completely rejected the traditional methods of painting with brushes, and sought more progressive ways to make art. Fastening a rope above the painting and grabbing firmly onto it, he glided across the canvas in vigorous movements, spreading thick mounds of paint with his feet on the surface. In doing so, Shiraga fully mastered the canvas by immersing himself physically into the work, eliminating both composition and consciousness from his work.

    Executed in 1986, Zuisouhen’s mesmerising dynamism and unrestrained energy is an outstanding example of Shiraga's persistent engagement with action painting as a powerful means of artistic expression. The dense strokes of paint convey a sculptural materiality and dimensionality, with the thick red pigments simultaneously creating beautiful abstract forms and foreboding allusions to spilt blood. Thick twirls of red, white, yellow and black converge in the middle of the canvas, maintaining their unique tonalities whilst in other parts of the composition these harmoniously dissolve into a single hue of colour.

    Zuisouhen’s Japanese title is 《 瑞相奕》, “zuiso” referring in Japanese Buddhism to an auspicious phenomenon that augurs an important event, for example according to legend the birth of Buddha was presaged by the blooming of flowers, the disappearing of insects from the palace, and the chirping of birds from the snowy mountains. Shiraga was particularly fascinated by the Matsuri festivals in Japan – Buddhist purification festivals intended to renew ties with divinities and nature, as well as bonds between individuals within a community. The festivals are pervaded by a frantic Dionysian energy, in which humans must appease and entertain the deities. Fascinated by the duality of beauty and destruction, Matsuri provided a primordial experience that allowed Shiraga to develop a form of art that straddled both worlds: “My art needs not just beauty, but something horrible. All of my works more or less express some sort of gruesomeness” (K. Shiraga, quoted in Body and Matter: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Satoru Hoshino, exh. cat., Dominique Levy Gallery, New York, 2015, p. 20). With the motifs of exhaustion and violence prevalent in the making of his art, Shiraga explained: “I want to paint as though rushing around on a battlefield, exerting myself to collapse from exhaustion” (quoted in Kazuo Shiraga: Six Decades, exh. cat., McCaffrey Fine Art, New York, 2009, p. 59).

    Shiraga’s startlingly passionate paintings and accompanying performances were groundbreaking milestones in the history of Japanese avant-garde art, and he continued his action paintings until his death in 2008. His pioneering techniques and philosophy paved the way for many European and American performance artists, such as Yves Klein (see for example his Anthropometries of the 1960s). The influential legacy of Shiraga and the Gutai group, not only in Japanese but also in post-war Western art history, have become increasingly recognized over the last few years, with the milestone exhibition Gutai: Splendid Playground held at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2013, and a Shiraga retrospective to be held at Tokyo Opera City Gallery in January 2020.



signed, titled and dated '"Zuisouhen" [in Kanji and Japanese] 1986 June [In Japanese] (61st year of Showa Era) Shiraga Kazuo [in Kanji]' on the reverse
oil on canvas
130 x 160 cm. (51 1/8 x 62 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1986.

HK$8,000,000 - 12,000,000 

Sold for HK$9,750,000

Contact Specialist
Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 24 November 2019