Kazuo Shiraga - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale Hong Kong Sunday, November 24, 2019 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Private Collection
    Mallet Japan, Tokyo, 11 June 2010, Lot 170
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Much like the Action Painters rising out of post-war America and the Abstract Expressionism that followed suit, Kazuo Shiraga sought to shift preconceived artistic paradigms that he found were defunct, and which could no longer serve as vehicles through which to express himself. In his pursuit of a distinct mode of self expression, Shiraga first founded the experimental group Zero-kai (Zero Society) with fellow artists in 1952, before joining the renowned Gutai group (which officially formed in 1955). The group’s inaugural show, the First Gutai Art Exhibition at the Ohara Kaikan Hall in Tokyo set the stage for a sensational performance that Shiraga put on: in a revolutionary feat of strength and stamina, the artist’s Challenging Mud pushed the boundaries of performance and artistic creation. Shiraga’s famous wrestle with mud—becoming one with this new material and the raw energy that tamed it—was the beginning of a lifetime of Performance Painting, created a full five years before Yves Klein’s Anthropometry paintings. The artist would later move on to deploy his feet in his art creation, an enthrallingly new mode of painting that earned him a dedicated editorial in Life magazine in 1956.

    Shisen (Purple Fairy) was created during Shiraga’s mature, post-Gutai years, a period during which the artist had perfected his iconic foot-painting and had risen to even further international acclaim. In this work filled with bright fuchsias and purples, deep maroons and mauves, one detects a lighter, more boundless approach to painterly expression and impasto manipulation. Along with its playful title—a nod to mythology and folklore—Shishen (Purple Fairy) is a potent rumination on the entirety of Shiraga’s oeuvre: not only does it draw from the artist’s famed Water Margin series and his love for lore, it is perhaps even more reminiscent of his earliest red hues, featured in the earlier Red Liquid and Wild Boar Hunting series which captured the viscera of combat.

    Shiraga’s shift from darker hues to a more vibrant pink also faintly recalls Yves Klein’s own preoccupation with the symbology and purpose linked to change and selection of colour. Calling to mind Klein’s shift to Monopink in 1960, transitioning from an ‘immaterial’ blue to a more ‘corporeal’ and flesh-like pink or rose, perhaps Shisen (Purple Fairy) draws parallels to Klein’s method of transposing meaning onto colour. In so doing, Shisen (Purple Fairy)’s pinks transcend its title and take on the ‘concreteness’ that was enshrined in the namesake of Gutai. The present work echoes the essence of Gutai, captured by the group’s founder Yoshihara Jiro in its manifesto: ‘Gutai art does not change the material but brings it to life. It does not falsify the material. In Gutai art the human spirit and the material reach out their hands to each other’ (excerpt from translation by Reiko Tomii, originally published as “Gutai bijutsu sengen,” Geijutsu Shinchō 7, no. 12 (December 1956), pp. 202–04).

    Kazuo Shiraga would go on to explore the interrelationship between body and material throughout his entire oeuvre, and in particular become most well-known for his foot paintings—a hallmark of his opus which he continued into his eighties.


Shisen (Purple Fairy)

signed 'Shiraga [in Kanji]' lower left; further signed, titled and dated 'Kazuo Shiraga "Shisen" 1984 October [in Kanji] (59th year of Showa Era)' on the reverse
oil on canvas
60.6 x 72 cm. (23 7/8 x 28 3/8 in.)
Painted in 1984, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Japan Art Dealers Association.

HK$1,900,000 - 2,700,000 

Sold for HK$2,500,000

Contact Specialist
Danielle So
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 25 November 2019