Japan Figurative Arts Part II

At the same time, abstract painting also appears and spreads: the first experiences in this area are in the works of the artists of the Mavo group ; in 1924 the book The poetics of Kandinsky was published. The promoter of Japanese abstractionism is Kazuo Sakata (1889-1956), a pupil of F. Léger.

Finally, in 1937, the Association of Free Artists (Jiyubijutsuka Kyokai) was founded whose exponents, Saburo Hasegawa (1906-1957), Masanari Murai (born in 1905), Kaoru Yamaguchi (1907-1968), organized in July of the same their first exhibition year in Tokyo. The painters of the influential Nikakai group, Yoshishige Saito (born in 1904) and Jiro Yoshihara (1905-1972) have given a youthful proof of their abstraction in these years. In comparison to the avant-garde of the Taishô period, with the inventive freedom of surrealism and the so-called school of expressionism, the pre-war abstract works are devoid of personality. During the war, there is a halt in Japanese art, and most artists have to wait until after the war to resume their activity.

Japanese fascism, under the pretext of conflict, wants to lead art to subordination. In order to live, Japanese artists must inevitably submit: someone stops painting, someone takes refuge in incensurable themes such as the landscape, but little by little, due to the work of coercion, only the subjects of war are immortalized. Artists who do not bend to paint such themes are mobilized. In this context there is no place (between 1940 and 1945) for the birth of an art of resistance.

Japanese post-war art, aware of the tragedy of the conflict, sinks into isolation and finds itself in a decadent poetics adopted by some artists. The works of the woodcutter Chimei Hamada (born in 1917), the series on Siberia by Yasuo Kazuki (1911-1974), the paintings on the atomic bomb by Iri Maruki (born in 1901) represent Japanese post-war decadence. In this period a strong European art current enters Japan Japanese art, based on pre-war Fauvism, reaches a new level of maturity.

Two exhibitions that have a great influence on post-war Japanese art take place in Tokyo: in 1951 the exhibition “Contemporary French Art” presented by the Salon de Mai and in 1956  The world. Exhibition of today’s art”, presented by some exponents of the informal movement. The names of P. Soulages and Japan Schneider begin to be known. Japanese artists, eager to learn about post-war European art, experience a shocking effectbut also driving. Traditional Japanese art has an aptitude for abstract decorative expression, but in the anti-decorative abstractionism of P. Soulages and H. Hartung Japanese artists can see a new international trend. Keeping in mind the French point of view in the affirmation of the new movement, so different from the Japanese one, one wonders how a fusion is possible. Any Japanese artist, with the sensitivity due to a reflected imaginative experience, can softly assimilate the new direction of postwar French abstractionism. In this context, the artists representing the first postwar period Masao Tsuruoka (born in 1907), Minoru Kawabata (born in 1911), Takeo Yamaguchi (born in 1920) and the abstract painters of the pre-war period Murai, Saito, Kawaguchi,

According to JUSTINSHOES.NET, the debate on realism was born in post-war Japanese art, as in European art. In the long history of Japan for the first time an experiment in European-type democracy is carried out, and in this experiment there are the premises for the development of advanced art and in particular for the informal one. As a result, in February 1948 the annual exhibition “Nihon Andepandan Ten” (Japanese independent exhibition) was founded and in 1949 the “Yomiuri Andepandan Ten” (independent Yomiuri exhibition) began. These two exhibitions will be repeated 15 times until 1963, offering the opportunity for many new artists to establish themselves. At the same time, in November 1951, the first Museum of Modern Art was born in Japan, in Kamakura, the following year in Tokyo the “National Museum of Modern Art” was born. In the capital, the Municipal Art Museum already existed before the war in which, after the war, numerous exhibitions of artistic groups are held, which make it a continuously active museum. Private art museums spring up almost every year, while around 50 private galleries begin to develop around the same time.

The presentation abroad of modern Japanese art is not proportionate to the foreign one presented in Japan, but in the year 1956 at the Venice Biennale, in the field of woodcut, the Grand Prize was awarded to Shiko Munakata. In the context of the fast movement of the post-war period, while in 1956 the exhibition “World. Art of today” introduces the works of J. Fautrier, J. Dubuffet and W. Wols, in 1957 Japan Mathieu holds a solo show presenting for the first time once in Japan his abstraction lirique and the literary work Un art autre is published in Japanby M. Tapié which causes great emotions in the artistic world. Informal Japanese art, like Fauvism in the past, finds in the irrational background and in the “power of the brush” the elements necessary for an easy assimilation. The two exhibitions represent an opportunity to imitate the works on display, whose imitations then appear, as if they were autonomous creations, in many exhibitions of informal art groups. However, attention must be paid to this phenomenon of imitation. In the framework of the Japanese tradition, both in black and white drawing and in Sho art, there was an ancient non-figurative way of painting, based on the sensitivity and irrationality of Eastern philosophy. It can be said that abstract art therefore has easy access to the Japanese art world. In Europe, in the relationship between man and nature there is an objective and thematic indication of a rigorous way of confronting and self-reliance. Japanese art is not based on the same relationship, hence a great difference in the achievements of its abstractionists compared to Europeans. Some artists, on the basis of national tradition, have been able to give a correct interpretation to the expression of Japanese informal art, albeit deriving from the European one, while some others have only managed to imitate European informal art with considerable confusion.

Japan Figurative Arts 2