Toru Kuwakubo:Sea' Sand' Sun' and Sculptures

Apr 18, 2018 2:10AM

Toru Kuwakubo〈Henry Spencer Moore's Studio〉, 2017, oil on canvas, 44.3 x 57.3"

When smoke slowly rose from the first steam train at Paris-Gare de Lyon in the late 19th century, Parisian gathered together and chanted the advent of Industrial Revolution. Imagine, in this glorious afternoon with sunshine sparkling on Seine, the train conductor rang the loud train whistle in high spirit. It was a series of harsh yet inspiring sounds, which seemed to be proclaiming all the different possibilities awaiting in the next chapter of humankind, and unveiling the surging history of western contemporary art in the 20th century.

“Impressionism” is a well-known art term. Even the general public without formal artistic education can be familiar with this contemporary genre. Impressionism was generated from a group of artists formed in the late 19th century. Its emergence had a significant connection with the social background at that time: the Industrial Revolution accelerating people’s lives, while the progression and popularization of science clarifying the study in optics and chromatics. Most importantly, due to the rise of the middle class stratum, themes of painting were no longer limited to aristocrats, religions, historical heroes or legends, but gradually becoming relevant to our daily life. Impressionism is regarded as the origin of contemporary art in art history, for it not only coincided with the historical process of Western history as addressed above, but has also technically and conceptually resulted in the upsurge of abstract painting in the 20th century. Post-Impressionism, which subsequently surfaced after Impressionism, basically inherited the techniques of Impressionist painting while having its central concept against the mere portrayal of the exterior. The Post-Impressionists advocated that painting should demonstrates an artist's subjective emotions and feelings, allowing works of art to sublimate from objective description to subjective expression. The three main Post-Impressionist figures, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne, had huge impact respectively on the following Expressionism, Fauvism and Cubism.

When facing Toru Kuwakubo's work, we can immediately notice the Impressionist features shown in his paintings: the rapid strokes, the disappearance of outline, the expression of natural light, and his proficiency in applying chromatics. It's hard to imagine a typical Japanese like Kuwakubo has such inherent Western aesthetics. However, if we linger in front of his paintings a bit longer, we could easily perceive another strange atmosphere created by his clever composition, and the bizarre scenarios that are not usually seen in daily life.

Toru Kuwakubo〈Alberto Giacometti's Studio〉, 2017, oil on canvas, 44.3 x 57.3"

Balanced and rhythmic composition

Despite all the Impressionist traces, it would be more suitable if we see Toru Kuwakubo with a  Post-Impressionist soul within. Behind each of his landscape-like oil painting, Kuwakubo builds up his own fanciful world. He uses the sky, the sea and the shore as the three main subjects to divide his canvas into three, presenting a three-dimensional perspective on 2D surfaces. Just as film director Wes Anderson is known for his obsessively symmetrical aesthetics, such balanced and stable composition has also become the main feature of Toru Kuwakubo’s works. However, we can still sense a looming turmoil in his images, for there is a dynamic impression coming from the artist's brushwork and pigment stacking. Toru Kuwakubo rejects creating outlines, instead, he depicts the clouds, the sea, and the ground with his powerful brush strokes along with the heap of oil paints, situating all natural elements in a moving position: the air flows as time goes by, and the grass swings accordingly. In addition, Toru Kuwakubo’s usage of oil paint pigment has a character totally different from other artists. Although oil paint pigment is known as a pigment, it unexpectedly possess a clay-like quality. Doing an oil painting is more like potting, as the paints are stacked onto the canvas. Despite Kuwakubo’s preference in heavy pigment, his painting still conveys a sense of lightness and airiness. Such contrast not only reflects the artist's unique visual language, but his mastery in applying medium.

Toru Kuwakubo〈Alexander Calder's Studio〉2017, oil on canvas, 44.3 x 57.3"

A virtual Impressionist

Interestingly, Toru Kuwakubo is never satisfied with the mere creation of images, but further, he provides his discussion on contemporary art. By combining the surnames of himself (Toru Kuwakubo) and of Oscar-Claude Monet, he created a virtual Impressionist painter named "Kuwoud Bonet”. Kuwakubo started a series of works with this virtual artist since 2014. In this series, Toru Kuwakubo imagines himself as Impressionist painters living in the 19th century, and takes a glimpses into these masters’ world by respectively allocating different style of different months to his creations. For instance, Cézanne seems to remind him of the breeze of May, while Van Gogh conveys a feeling of the summer nights in August. Apart from his attempt on paying his tribute to those Impressionist painters, Kuwakubo tries to invite his viewers into the scenarios he created by using such reconstruction of time-space. The virtual identity which sets itself apart from the artist himself, i.e. the "Alter Ego," reminds us of the Dadaist Marcel Duchamp. In his famous artwork “Fountain”, Duchamp signed "R. Mutt 1917," on a porcelain urinal which he purchased in a chain store. In 1921, his female alter-ego “Rrose Sélavy” fully surfaced in public, seemingly with the attempt to challenge people's definition of gender and their values of tradition. Such tactics used by Duchamp to re-examine the humanistic phenomena happens to coincide with Toru Kuwakubo's desire of creating another definition of art through traditional painting.  

The brand-new series of Toru Kuwakubo directs the viewers into Nunu Fine Art with an illusion of walking into the 19th century’s Paris. As if surrounded by the sound of the bawled vendor and the scent from outdoor-café, this is where the avant-garde and the traditional coexist. Before you let yourself into Nunu Fine Art, please lay aside the busy pace of Taipei lifestyle, and gracefully roam through the past memories that Toru Kuwakubo has brought us.