Japanese Art: From Refined to Revered in Five Decades. Essay Sample

Published: 2022-12-27
Japanese Art: From Refined to Revered in Five Decades. Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories: Culture Art Asia
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1789 words
15 min read

Perception and acceptability of Japanese arts have taken a change in the last five decades. At some point, works by Japanese artists such as Zen were highly prized possessions that fetched a lot of income in the Western nations. However, conventions have shifted even better from the high cultured fine art of the refined age, and today a simple Japanese artwork of a waiter dressed in transparent regalia sells at more than $500, 000 to Western collectors. Such appreciation of modern Japanese arts can be attributed to the efforts of artists such as Takashi Murakami. Though not solely responsible, his art movement, superflat, has been on the forefront in making visual artworks from Japanese artists more popular in the West. The superflat concept by Murakami is based on the theory that contemporary Japanese aesthetics are inherited directly from the innovative arts of the Edo period, 1600-1867, and referenced in the classical works of various artists who portray the ideas. This essay examines the superflat concept and term as elaborated by Murakami Takashi in his texts and exhibitions curated of his arts and those of others under the same name. The purpose is to contextualize Murakami's exhibition in regards to his attempt to describe Japanese artworks of the past and discover the origin of postmodernity. Murakami's art is referenced to elaborately in the essays with an examination of the aesthetic of Japanese art referred to as superflat. The analysis of Murakami's works permits the understanding of the significance of the movement from a cultural perspective in the digital age. An important presentation here is the interpretation of superflat and the traits of the artworks.

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The Superflat Art and Theory

The aesthetics of 'Superflat' surface has contested meanings originating from the works of the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. The concept not only refers to his works but also a theory formulated by the painter. Superflat denotes the incorporation of Japanese pop culture into art. Besides that, it is the aesthetic and historical connection that Murakami recognizes between the two-fold contemporary portrayal of Japanese culture and the agreements of Japanese painting. In April 2000, Murakami opened the superflat exhibition in Parco Gallery Tokyo. He featured works by artists from various regions of Japan that included work as animated features, video games, plastic models, urban photography, comic strips, character sketches, and paintings (Hjorth & Sharp, 2014). In this way, the exposition gained interest because Murakami expanded the definition of art to encompass aspects not considered so before. These artists were grouped under a single classification as superflat composers. These composers were not limited to modern artists alone but also the works of Japan's premodern artists.

Moreover, superflat is not a simple designation for the exhibition of works but a theory of art that and a description of a style formulated by Murakami. It is a theory on the making and consumption of artwork in the context of modern processes of globalization. In other words, the concept represents a variety of understandings that significantly give meaning and incorporates contemporary globalization into art. This understanding transverses various forms of artistic productions, covering many cultural classifications in textualization with the theoretical considerations evident in modern culture (Ivy, 2010). Therefore, the analysis of expression and concept of superflat hints on the possibility of varied and multifaceted explanations which are divergent and contests Murakami's meaning and presentation. Specifically, the idea of superflat should be employed in the understanding of the expression and complicated relationship that exists between Murakami's art and the contemporary culture where the artworks are produced and consumed. As provided in the description, Weisenfeld (2010) mentions that superflat is a surface with the terrain of contestation that shows a lack of hierarchical division that exists between the commercial culture and art.

According to Murakami in his manifesto, the theory of superflat is an identification of the ancestry of artistic tendency inherited by the contemporary Japanese visual culture in the spirit of the innovations and creativity from the Edo period (Danchev, 2011). The evolution of art to the superflat concept is a lineage of aesthetics that borrows a lot from the works of historical Japanese artists such as Tsuji Nobuo. Nobuo discovered a common feature among the Edo artists in their production of peculiar though fanciful images. He also identifies a tendency towards this unconventionality and friskiness in the current forms of manga and anime. Murakami extends Nobuo's discovery through his presentation of superflat as an artistic movement that emphasizes the double dimensionality of the painting surface, a trait that is also part of the eccentric works of Edo and anime. The emphasis on this superflat is attained with the stylistic approach that focuses the audience's gaze across the surface of the piece of art rather than following the conventional linear perspective of Western works that draws the gaze in work. As provided earlier, superflat can be used in the description of Murakami's visual style that is seen in his sculptures, paintings, and an assortment of his other productions. According to Lisica (2010), Murakami assumes the double dimensional approach in anime and manga with the use of cute character icons and employs this in combination with methods of composition borrowed from traditional Japanese paintings.

Through connecting the traditional Edo forms of composition with modern expressions obtained from anime and manga, Murakami portrays superflat as an amalgamation of art with popular culture. This begs the question on the social and cultural identity designated to art particularly in Japan. In his compositions, Murakami uses his concept of combining art and commercial culture by developing pieces of sculptures, paintings, toys, handbags, key holders, stickers, bandanas, buttons, and t-shirts. The production of Murakami's artworks occurs as a business strategy that challenges the usual channels for the exposition of artwork in Japan. Consequently, superflat is influenced by a debated explanation of the modern institution of Japanese art. This theory affirms that the originality of anime, manga, graphic design, and fashion in the expression of artistic works in the current Japanese commercial culture.

Superflat rejects the incorporation of what is considered as modern art especially aspects imported from Western concepts that have been part of the institution of compositions of the Meiji era, 1868-1912. Murakami disregards this attempt to modernize Japanese artistry and considers it as incomplete Westernization. As provided by Borggreen (2013), innovation and originality which is part of the current forms of commercial culture serve the purpose of representing the continuousness of the same novelties brought by the original premodern painters. Murakami argues that the purpose of creativity and invention is to distinguish from the practices of Meiji era and that the nature of the contemporary consumer culture offers an opportunity for the re-emergence of what should be authentic Japanese expression. Murakami was initially being trained to paint in the Nihonga style which is the most preferred practice of art in Japan. However, he developed distaste on the technique and its conservativeness and its lack of relevance in the modern times and hence his intent to revolutionize art.

Structuration of Gaze in Superflat Art

An aspect that preoccupies majority of Murakami's superflat works is the gaze. Essentially, the theory of flatness in the structuration of the way the painting orients the audience enfolding his or her gaze into the work. As Murakami believes, the way a picture manipulates the speed of the viewers' gaze, their scan, and ensuing control of the flow of information is in line with Tsuji explanation (Beynon, 2012). Tsuji is an art historian whose works influenced Murakami's formulation of the superflat concept. It was from his belief and those of the other three artists, Soga Shohaku, Ito Jakuchu, and Kano Sansetsu that Murakami borrows inspiration of the gaze. These three artists share a common concept of influencing the movement of gaze in their pictures across the surface linking their work to those of Yoshinori Kanada's anime and Hokusai woodblock prints. The composition of these artists follows a similar construction along horizontal and vertical lines. Instead of creating a painting where the main image is balanced, the artist applies a style where a minimum equilibrium is established out towards each corner of the canvas. This is the sense from which Murakami's paintings contrasts others from a one-point viewpoint, rather than a single point of view; there is the following ordering of essentials in the picture based on the point. The painting does not have a strong relationship with the borders of the canvas or each other. In this way, there is the creation of a mobile viewing aspect. Nonetheless, the control that the painting has over the viewers' gaze in terms of speed and information flow is somewhat not less as compared to that of a one-point gaze. The difference is that is this situation the viewer follows a static course. The planarity of the painting leaves the viewer to gather the fragments accrued when scanning the image to visualize its meaning. This is the crucial concept in the Superflat theory.

To illustrate the concept of gaze in the superflat theory, Murakami offers a rough sketch of Japan in superflat mode. Interestingly, the very movement of the gaze is what creates imagination and enables the formulation of the theory. The elements of the construction of superflat as a subject of painting are evident from the illustration. These are media, entertainment, subcultures, anime, manga, pop, the west and eroticism. These elements make up the modern Japanese culture and subcultures. Besides, the Japanese past is inscribed into these pictures. The illustration that Murakami uses to show flat Japan is one of the renowned artists, Kano, works. The works not only serve to demonstrate the plane upon which the viewer's gaze moves but where it is additionally encompassed into the painting. Japan's past serves as a scoping point, a structuration of the visual elements. Correspondingly, it is structuration whose ontology drives the superflat movement.

The paintings created by Murakami are his illustration of the theory of superflat. As mentioned earlier, the approach is verbal though its operations are seen through the layering of the elusive symbols onto a plane characterized by movement with an infusion of various elements that symbolizes nature such as birds, clouds, and dogs (Cornyetz, 2012). Just the way imagination of a religious painting develops in one's mind, complete with icons that function through layered signification. As distinguished, these icons work since the artist knows how to layer them precisely in a given manner. Murakami presents the icons to viewers in a way that they will be noticed through the movement of the gaze. If these pieces were stripped of the vital layer of signification, the icons themselves, then what is left behind is a mere diagram that outlines what constitutes the movement of eyes across the surface.

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Japanese Art: From Refined to Revered in Five Decades. Essay Sample. (2022, Dec 27). Retrieved from https://speedypaper.com/essays/japanese-art-from-refined-to-revered-in-five-decades

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