Saburo Murakami

2017.10.14 [sat] - 12.09 [sat] 11:00am - 7:00pm (Saturdays: 11:00am - 5:00pm) Closed on Sundays, Mondays, and holidays

ARTCOURT Gallery would like to announce an exhibition of works by Saburo Murakami.
An attempt to shed further light on various aspects of Murakami’s renowned “Paper-Breaking” (Kami-yaburi), in which he burst through sheets of kraft paper mounted on wooden frames, this exhibition will take a many-sided approach, presenting Entrance (1955/2003), the sole extant trace* of this work in Japan, together with videos of his performances during the ’80s and ’90s, and photo sequences of Passage that were taken by the photographer Kiyoji Otsuji at the 2nd Gutai Art Exhibition in 1956.  Further, by making a general survey of Murakami’s “Paper-Breakings” alongside his sculptural work Air (1956/1994) and his painting works from the ’50s and ’60s, we will take a fresh look at his practice of bodily actions and painting, and his relationship to conceptual expression, while also exploring the awareness of issues that runs through this artist’s work.

Saburo Murakami’s “Paper-Breaking”, which has to some extent become synonymous with the artist himself, has often been treated as a forerunner of performance art, and an experiment in dismantling the existing frameworks of painting by destroying the screen (painting surface), and in pursuing painting’s essence and new possibilities.  To the artist himself, however, it was something that came out of a sense of curiosity, which led him to want to grasp what would emerge from the collision between the material and his own body and mind; and it was also an expressive act based on the desire to free his own existence by liberating, all at once, the time-space sealed up inside the wooden frames and paper, and it was the extremely personal and fundamental desire to try to face the actual feeling that can be gained from that, of “here and now” and “life”.

Through “Paper-Breaking”, Murakami was attempting to examine firsthand such themes as time and space, necessity and contingency, and self and otherness; and these issues that are inextricably tied to “living” are raised in various ways in his painting works as well.  A work produced by leaving a paint-slathered canvas face down overnight (1957) presents a vibrant materiality together with a screen space which, created by the passage of time and the action of gravity, becomes a harmonious whole of necessity and contingency.  A work comprised of a canvas mounted onto another, supporting canvas (1959) dissimilates the structure of planar painting, and its painted imagery is experienced freshly as something possessing spatial-temporal depth.

“Paper-Breaking” and these paintings embody the sincere attitude, which runs through Murakami’s art, of trying to grasp the aspects of existence that are formed within their relationship with the world.  But that was always something that was two sides of the same coin with his own philosophy of approaching a state of “no-mindedness” (mushin) upon having thoroughly investigated oneself, without being constrained by such things as experiential knowledge, prediction or intent.  In a late 1960s painting work, his movement of a brush along the contours of paper fragments pasted onto canvas yields tension-filled shapes from the curving and straight lines and color planes.  Here, in the work of an artist who attempted to transcend his own consciousness in a form of expression of painting surface creation that contrasts sharply with “Paper-Breaking”, the competing tracks of the intentionality and unintentionality of that artist’s attempt seem to have been carved.  And the work Air, with its glass plates that are reassembled for each showing, is intended to contain the air of each place in much the same way as “Paper-Breaking”; and one may regard this as an indication of the “no-mindedness” he sought, and further, of the encountering of the very emergence of images that convey abundance while being unstable and still unformed.

In a note on “Paper-Breaking” from his later years, Murakami makes the following statement:

---“Having the feeling something is there beforehand, I don’t search. Even without a premonition of its substance, of what that something is, through the guiding of action by a writhing vitality, I arrive at a psychological exaltation that can only be said to be a certain type.  The thing I obtained in my performances of breaking paper is an “indescribable energy (ki)”.**

Unlike the actual substance that is secured by prediction and artifice, when coming in contact with an undifferentiated “thing” that is at this very instant about to be born out of a “no-mind” action that is brimming with free energy, as if in accordance with that, one’s own “life” manifests brilliantly.  It would seem that to Murakami, expression was the ceaseless striving to experience that moment.

* Refers to an object consisting of materials left over after a performance, i.e., torn paper and wooden frames.  
** From a handwritten note by Murakami.  Inscribed with the date and time “’91.5.29 2:00AM”.

Related events

  • 10.20 [fri] 6:00pm - 7:00pm
    Talk [Sadaharu Horio (artist) & Atsuo Yamamoto (curator, Yokoo Tadanori Museum of Contemporary Art)]
  • 10.20 [fri] 7:00pm - 8:00pm

  • *Free admission, but RSVP required for the Talk (Please contact or +81(0)6-6354-5444)


Saburo Murakami