“The gallery space never reveals itself immediately, and its mystery inspires our imagination. When
confronting a place beyond our imagination, we can discover the purity in ourselves; so pure encounters
and experiences are awaiting us there.” - Makoto Ofune
Olivier Malingue is pleased to present the first solo exhibition in the UK of Japanese artist Makoto Ofune.
Born in Osaka in 1977, Makoto Ofune graduated in 2000 from Kyoto University of Education with a major in
Japanese painting. In 2016 he was awarded the Fellowship of Overseas Study Programme for Artists by the
Agency for Cultural Affairs and has spent the last year undertaking a residency in Paris.
The exhibition is a survey of works produced over the past decade which combine traditional Japanese
painting techniques with an abstract vocabulary, revealing his search for eternity and harmony. By creating
an atmosphere that invites meditation, he proposes that the viewer considers not only the pieces
themselves, but also the space created by them.
In Ofune’s richly textured works, layers of powdered mineral pigments known as iwa enogu are applied to
Japanese hemp paper with nikawa, an animal gelatin glue. These stones are crushed by hand to a fine
powder, and the resulting pigments enhance the vibrancy and depth of the original raw materials. These
techniques are usually seen in nihon-ga (traditional Japanese painting), but Ofune uses these jewel-toned
pigments in a contemporary manner, creating atmospheric pieces that are both meditative and timeless.
In the Reflection Field series, Ofune focuses his attention on raw materials: small, roughly cut pieces of
autunite, sodalite and welded tuff. He coats the cut surfaces of these stones with powdered mineral
pigments, blurring the lines between the natural element and his creative process. These stones are
presented to the viewer as if they were artefacts, yet by applying the crushed pigments in shades of deep
blue and bright white, they are elevated from their coarse, natural state, becoming refined and almost
Ofune’s exploration of Japanese tradition and culture is not only confined to his technical knowledge.
Echoing traditional Japanese murals, Eternal #5 spans the entire wall, its patterns of darkness and light
rippling over the canvas. Developed over seven years, its scale and depth imbues it with a meditative and
hypnotic quality. This sense of tranquility is also reflected in the Still Wave series, appearing like oval pools,
with a light emanating from the centre, diffusing through the work. In contrast to this stillness, earlier pieces
from the Wave series consist of lightness and movement, with tones ranging from cool silvery greys to
bright dappled blues. Exploring transient modes of existence and ethereal elements, his works appear
connected to the metamorphic flow of the human state and the natural world: the seasons, light, weather
Heavily influenced by spirituality, but without a connection to any particular religion, Ofune seeks to
“connect with the infinite” through his practice, placing his works in sites of cultural and spiritual
significance. This has been seen in his Void series, where large-scale circular pieces have been installed at
shrines and in churches. By acknowledging this harmony between his artworks and spirituality, he bridges
the gap between the tangible and the intangible.
Ofune’s exhibition plays with opposing themes: the physical and the spiritual, darkness and light, movement
and stillness. However his true mastery lies not only in his technical skill, but also in the “textural
atmosphere” he creates, which encourages the viewer to find harmony and wholeness.
A catalogue of Makoto Ofune’s work has been published to accompany the exhibition, featuring critical
essays by the art historians and international curators Isabelle Charrier and Martha Kirszenbaum.