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  • Catalogue Essay

    Emerging alongside Abstract Expressionism, a new form of the ‘abstract' began to develop, which sought to emphasise the importance of the ‘physical' aspect within the category of art. Coining this movement as ‘Action Painting' in 1952, American Art Critic Harold Rosenberg classified those artists who were transitioning from the ‘category of painting' into the ‘category of art as performance'. Signifying a major shift in aesthetic experience, this new movement saw artists such as Jackson Pollock,Yves Klein and Japanese artists from the Gutai group producing paintings, where canvases had been transformed into recording devices. ‘Action Painting' began to characterise a new relationship and development between man and material, where painting was being created through theart of confrontation. Becoming widespread as a movement in the 1950s and 1960s, Japan's Gutai Group was formed in 1954 around JiroYoshihara; an established artist who became a sort of ‘father-figure' for a younger generation of Avant-Garde artists. As a result of fusing the leadership of an older generation with that of painters from a younger one, Gutai's aesthetic was one of action and abstraction. Following Rosenberg's claims about ‘Action Painting' the Gutai artists literally transformed their canvases into areas of action, where their bodies became brushes. Among the groups' four main members was Kazuo Shiraga, who quickly joined the group shortly after its formation and was a pivotal player in the movements first exhibitions. Although realising that fierce physical action was the essential ingredient within the creation process of the Gutai Group and their work, Shiraga quickly came to realise that it was in fact the remaining art that was and would become most valued. Consequently, Shiraga moved away from his early performance work to create his ‘Foot Paintings' of the late 1950s, which became his most acclaimed work from his time as a Gutai. Continuing to produce until the disintegration of the movement, Kazuo Shiraga's works have been viewed as possibly the most productive and expressive of the Gutai members. Although executed after the disbandment of the Gutai Association, Niufu from 1986 is a seminal work by the artist.The painting inhabits all the gestural qualities of the artist's oeuvre and with its colour and line radiating outward from the centre of the canvas, Kazuo Shiraga's painting is explosive in its tonality and expressive in its brushwork.The body of his work is a painterly record of energy, basing itself on the physical action that was the movement's hallmark. Niufu is essential in its vitality and tempered by some of the academicism that his later work embodies – making it creative and innovative within the artist's painterly oeuvre.

107

Niufu

1986
Oil on canvas.
24 x 29 in. (60.5 x 73 cm).
Signed on the recto lower left.

Estimate
£30,000 - 40,000 

Sold for £34,100

KYOBAI, Japanese Art and Culture

3 Apr 2008, 6pm
London