Kazuo Shiraga - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale Hong Kong Friday, October 6, 2023 | Phillips
  • A frontrunner of the post-war Japanese avant-garde collective, the Gutai Art Association (1954-1972), Kazuo Shiraga was a formidable member who shattered conventional boundaries of art. The artist was a true vanguard of his time, taking to heart the tenets imparted by Gutai’s founder Jiro Yoshihara, who encouraged ‘embodiment’ and ‘concreteness’—translations of Gutai—when approaching working materials, and instructed his members to truly become one with their chosen media. 

    “I want to paint as though rushing around on a battlefield, exerting myself to collapse from exhaustion.”
    —Kazuo Shiraga

    Shiraga was an action painter through and through. This was evident from his earliest forays into foot painting, which began in 1954 (then subsequently immortalised in a 1956 in Life Magazine article), with the artist painting with his feet while suspended from the ceiling; to Challenge to the Mud (1955), in which Shiraga writhed in a pool of mud, wrestling it to create a visceral performance piece; to his later ‘fan’ paintings, in which the artist would drag his impasto into semi-circles, manipulated into half-moon, fan-like creations. It is perhaps fitting that the present piece should be entitled Ritsu (‘law’, ‘rules’, or ‘principles’), as it offers us glimpses into the regimental approach with which Shiraga created his oeuvre, closely following Yoshihara’s teachings. Against its deep auburn background are brilliant swathes of reds and greens, along with smatterings of purples and blues, as divergent strands of Shiraga’s lifelong creations culminate on the canvas. One senses a pulsating rawness that can only be achieved by an artist whose very physicality is intrinsic to his production, and yet, also one entirely at one with the medium used. Ritsu simultaneously offers both restraint and constraint, with slashes of vertical colour rendered in strict straight lines dissipating into swirls and splashes of spontaneous energy. In a dizzying abstraction and reminder of the character for its title, Ritsu showcases the artist’s unique grasp of the rules for artistic creation. 

    • Provenance

      Private Collection
      Tokyo, Mainichi Auction, 9 March 2019, lot 638
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner



signed 'Shiraga' lower right; further signed and titled '"Ritsu" Kazuo Shiraga [in Japanese]' on the reverse
oil on canvas mounted on board
45.6 x 53 cm. (17 7/8 x 20 7/8 in.)
This work is accompanied by a registration card issued by the Japan Art Dealers Association.

Full Cataloguing

HK$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for HK$825,500

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 7 October 2023