A Japanese legend in the arts, Takashi Murakami is known to create modern cartoon pop-art with underlying Buddhist references. It has been 14 years since Takashi Murakami has put up a large scale exhibit in Japan, and the contemporary artist did not disappoint.
A sculpture of the artist greeted guests at the door. Dressed and posed as a monk, its face sliced open in the middle revealing another left an uncomfortable feeling prickling under my skin. I remember thinking this is going to be a weird exhibit… And I love it!
The Birth Cry of the Universe, an ostentatious mixed media sculpture, towers over everyone in the room. The monster’s gleaming mouth sat open and ready to devour. Devour what? I’m not sure. Still, a perfect first impression of the exhibit!
The first time I saw this symbol, it was right below the neck of my brother. His very first tattoo, I believe. The ensō circle is an important creation in Buddhism. It is usually drawn with one swift brushstroke. Once drawn, you cannot go back to change it. The circle may be closed or it may not. If the latter, it conveys the idea that there is beauty in imperfection.
While the other paintings in the ensō series is littered with anime fluff, this particular piece is broken down to the simplest form. The ultimate symbol of elegance and Japanese minimalism.
Murakami does not scrimp on the details of his work. This is a close up of one of his ensō paintings, an ode to enlightenment and the universe.
The extremely detailed pieces, both paintings and sculptures, showcases his amazing eye for color and texture. Once seen, his work immediately leaves you with a sense of vigor and vitality that you would otherwise not achieve with more traditional art.
The 500 Arhats, the reason why I came to this exhibit, is an impressive 100 meter long artwork that took Murakami and more than a hundred students from different art schools to make. It’s considered one of the biggest paintings ever produced.
Divided into four parts, each one is named after a Chinese celestial direction: Vermilion Bird (south), Black Tortoise (north), Blue Dragon (east), White Tiger (west).
Each part has a different color scheme and theme. My favorite, pictured below, is the White Tiger. A flaming masterpiece showcasing various grotesque looking old men known as the Arhats (those who have achieved nirvana).
Mori Art Museum also dedicated a room commemorating the work that was done for the 500 Arhats. In that room, you would be able to see videos, sample drawings and other documentation that went into the whole project.
Held until March of 2016, “The 500 Arhats” is a feast for the eyes and soul, a vomit of psychedelic goodness with chaotic colors and strange characters dumped in a blender, mixed and allowed to flow out in a seemingly disjointed yet precisely curated manner.
If you did not manage to see it, I hope this little snippet can keep you invigorated until Takashi Murakami amazes us once again with another electrifying exhibit!