July 12, 2008

Tranquility of the Heart, Torment of the Flesh

One of the paintings in the Takashi Murakami retrospective at the Brooklyn Art Museum (see last post) came from his exhibit in Spring 2007 at the Gagosian Gallery in uptown New York. It had a rather long name: Tranquility of the Heart, Torment of the Flesh - Open Wide the Eye of the Heart and Nothing is Invisible.

This exhibit was surprising since the art was not as light-hearted as his previous work. Murakami had several portraits of Daruma, the founder of Zen Buddhism. According to legend, Daruma sat in meditation for nine years, without ever blinking his eyes. During the process his arms and legs lost blood, rotted and fell off. His resilience and determination is of cultural significance in Japan. Here Murakami interprets the legend of Daruma in his own style, fusing tradition with a contemporary sensibility.

The gold background gives the pieces weight and a super sleek effect at the same time. The paintings are rendered in a very refined technique. Note the signature on the upper left corner of the portrait evoking traditional Japanese paintings.

The Gagosian exhibit had the cartoonish smiling lotus flowers, but there was another version painted in the more traditional Japanese technique. Murakami stays on course by mixing high art and popular culture, tradition and contemporary culture, Eastern philosophy with a Western interpretation.

Click to enlarge image.

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