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Japanese art in Singapore: Kato Art Duo presents Ancient Fantasy – Kukoku Tamura

To kick start 2015 on a massive high, Japanese art gallery Kato Art Duo has invited the internationally-renowned Kukoku Tamura to launch its first solo exhibition of the year.

Running from 16 January to 28 March, Ancient Fantasy – Kukoku Tamura focuses on the works of the post-war experimental calligrapher, whose unique fusion of traditional Japanese calligraphy and abstract expressionism has made huge ripples through the art scene. Famed for his thought-provoking, avant-garde approach to capturing Japanese culture, we can’t think of a better match for the Raffles Hotel gallery.

Kukoku Tamura's Once in a Lifetime (Golden Opportunity II) 2012 - Ink on Japanese paper
Kukoku Tamura’s Once in a Lifetime (Golden Opportunity II) 2012 – Ink on Japanese paper

 

Calligraphy and abstract expressionism – a strange collision of art forms, you say? It seems that Kukoku’s childhood had a big part to play in his style of work. Growing up in a dye shop in Yokohama, he was exposed to a myriad of colourful kimonos during his childhood.

When he was 15, Kukoku took up calligraphy and was mesmerised by the monochromatic results of sumi ink – a material he loved for its Oriental roots. But while he was passionate about traditional Japanese styles, the young artist’s colourful home environment soon found its way into his pieces. Kukoku now uses an array of bright hues liberally, which stands out in the normally black-and-white world of calligraphy.

Kukoku Tamura's Pearlescent 2012 - Ink on Japanese paper
Kukoku Tamura’s Pearlescent 2012 – Ink on Japanese paper

 

When the abstract expressionism movement hit Japan in the 1950s, Kukoku – then in his 20s – was captivated. So why not fuse it with his calligraphy?

While chatting with Kato Art Duo about his now-iconic mix of styles, Kukoku said: “Within myself, I was not able to separate calligraphy from painting. I wanted to express both concepts. I seek to get more people around the world to appreciate Japanese modern art in general. Therefore, I seek beauty beyond traditional calligraphy which is what modern calligraphy is all about.”

To capture the essence of Kukoku’s works, Kato Art Duo will present his coveted Ancient Fantasies Series (which emphasises his use of primary colours) as well as his Once in a Lifetime series. The latter explores the cherished moment of meeting someone for possibly the last time – an idea that is heavily reflected upon in Japanese culture and tea ceremonies.

Kukoku Tamura's Abundant Wealth 2012 - Ink on Japanese paper
Kukoku Tamura’s Abundant Wealth 2012 – Ink on Japanese paper

 

Hiroshi Kato, Kato Art Duo’s Director (and thus the person who selects the artists on show) is honoured to display Kukoku’s one-of-a-kind pieces. He said: ‘With his unique vision to combine calligraphy and painting, we believe that Kukoku has truly captured the very essence of Japanese culture in his works.’

Want to see the exhibition for yourselves? Ancient Fantasy – Kukoku Tamura is on from 16 January – 28 March at Kato Art Duo, Raffles Hotel Arcade, 328 North Bridge Road #02-28,188719. For more information, visit their website, check out their Facebook page, or call 6338 9073.

 

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