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Celebrated Artist Hiroshi Senju Debuts New Fluorescent Waterfall Paintings

Karen Kedmey
Jan 15, 2015 3:26PM

When asked about the motif that has occupied him for nearly 25 years—waterfalls—the celebrated Japanese artist Hiroshi Senju once explained: “I wanted to paint something that will not be old-fashioned after 1,000 years, a timeless landscape. I wanted to relate to something of the Earth that we’re living on, like volcanic activities.”

Waterfall: Night, 2014
Sundaram Tagore Gallery

So far, his often monumentally scaled paintings, whose surfaces are covered with cascading sheets of water crashing down towards their bottom edges and sending up fine mists of spray, are proving to be timeless. Viewers worldwide remain mesmerized by these exquisitely crafted compositions, which seem, like water itself, to have no beginning and no end.

Waterfall: Night, 2014
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
Waterfall: Day, 2014
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
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This month, at Sundaram Tagore Gallery’s Singapore location, Senju will unveil a new crop of waterfall paintings in a solo exhibition titled “Day Falls/Night Falls.” Rendered in fluorescent pigments, by the light of day they appear black-and-white. In darkness, and bathed in UV light, they become electrifying waterscapes of blue and deep purple, as if they were infused with a nuclear glow.

Waterfall: Day, 2014
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
Waterfall: Day, 2014
Sundaram Tagore Gallery

To make these works, the artist mimics nature. He begins by pouring paint onto mulberry paper mounted on board. “It’s a way to accommodate nature in my painting,” he once said of this technique. “Like a real waterfall.” He then uses a wide variety of tools—ranging from an electric pump to a toothbrush—to apply more paint and achieve a misty effect.

Waterfall: Night, 2014
Sundaram Tagore Gallery

Unlike a real waterfall, however, his sublime fluorescent visions emit a glow that calls to mind urban nights, offices, and other manmade, industrial phenomena. For the artist, these references are entirely intentional. “My waterfall isn’t Niagara Falls or Victoria Falls but more the concept of a waterfall,” he once said. True to the concept of a waterfall in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, his are touched by human encroachment onto nature, in which we have the ability to eradicate the night by making it as bright as the day.

Karen Kedmey

Day Falls/Night Falls” is on view at Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Singapore, Jan. 17–Mar. 8, 2015.

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