The Art Gallery of New South Wales recently commissioned Takashi Murakami to create a work for its permanent collection.
Murakami created a 30 foot long by 10 foot high painting, that he titled Japan Supernatural: Vertiginous After Staring at the Empty World Too Intensely, I Found Myself Trapped in the Realm of Lurking Ghosts and Monsters, that depicts a battle between spirits and samurai, bound together by a giant cat.
“Making this painting was super difficult. For one year I have had no life,” Muakami said.
The work is made up of 502 individual silkscreens and was purchased by the gallery for an undisclosed seven-figure amount and is the centerpiece of the gallery’s current exhibit Japan Supernatural.
The exhibit explores the art history of Japan’s folklore, which is rich in stories of spirits, goblins and shape-shifters, through the works of past masters and contemporary artists like Takashi Murakami and Chiho Aoshima, whose works are available at VFA.
The Edo period in Japan, 1606-1868, saw changes in the culture that gave much of the population more time for leisure activities and more time to focus on art and culture. Combined with the advances in woodblock printing, artists were able to illustrate stories of the supernatural, which were popular during that time, and distribute their work to a wide audience.
Toward the end of the Edo period, tales of the supernatural went out of style. It wasn’t until the middle of the twentieth century that Japanese manga artists and filmmakers seemed to rediscover the old spirits and demons and to reimagine them for the modern world.
Films like Totoro and Spirited Away resonated with audiences around the world and have become a part of our global culture.
Takashi Murakami has a studio just outside of Tokyo, where he employs about 350 workers. At age 57, he is the founder of the Superflat art movement and a superstar in the art world. In 2017/2018 his work in international auctions attracted turnover of $18.3 million with a top price of $8.8 million, according to Artprice.com.
His superflat style and the other-worldly content of his works, give them a supernatural feel and universal appeal.
In works like Champignon and Jellyfish Eyes, available at VFA, Murakami imbues his subjects with mystical qualities.
Chiho Aoshima is one of the artists who has been nurtured at Kaikai Kiki, Takashi Murakami’s artist collective, where she was an assistant in Murakami’s studio.
Born in Tokyo in 1974, Aoshima has a degree in economics, but her passion for art led her to create surreal scenes in the superflat style.
Her works, like Building Head-Palm Trees and Japanese Apricot, available at VFA, explore the relationship between humans and nature.
Aoshima’s works are also included in the Japan Supernatural exhibit, on display until March 8, 2020.
Supernatural Art at VFA
Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore. Takashi Murakami, Japan’s rock star artist, unveils 10-metre ‘stupid cat painting’. The Guardian. November 1, 2019.
Shona Martin. Superflat to supercat: Sydney buys a multimillion-dollar artwork. The Sydney Morning Herald. October 25, 2019.
Larissa Hjorth. In Japan, supernatural beliefs connect the spiritual realm with the earthly objects around us. The Conversation, RMIT. October 30. 2019.
Emma Joyce. Five Haunting Characters to Seek Out at Sydney’s ‘Japan Supernatural’ Exhibition. Concrete Playground. January 22, 2020.