Atsuo Hukuda, Shuhei Fukuda

2. 9. – 24. 11. 2022

Curator: Michal Škoda

After four years, Japanese artists Atsuo Hukuda and Shuhei Fukuda are comming back to the Czech Republic to once again present a joint project at the Kvalitář gallery, referring to one of the traditions of Japanese art within the framework of contemporary art, thus following up on their very successful exhibition RYUHA from 2018.

The exhibition title references a tradition of Japanese art and history that the artists then link with the language of contemporary art. They deal with their chosen theme of monochrome through personal experiences. As a result, even though the exhibited works are not characterized by narrative signs, they are deeply communicative. 

Atsuo Hukuda (1958) is influenced by the art of the 60s and 70s, especially minimalist and conceptualist tendencies. Over the past decade, his work has been centered around attempting to connect Eastern traditions with aspects of contemporary Western art. For this search the artist seeks out old materials long left aside of the main trends – for instance gold and silver leafs, or the Japanese uruši varnish – to act as medium in his investigation of the identity of Japanese art.

The artworks he brought to Prague have been considerably challenging to produce, its basis uses snake skin (black and white). The manufacturing of snake skin is labor-intensive. First, it is cut into 3×3 cm squares, subsequently it is reinforced with fabric and put together into large formats. In some cases, Hukudu combines the snake skin with gold leafs, other times he uses wax to highlight the structure of the skin itself. The artist has chosen this now precious material because it connects to traditions of the Tumulus (Kofun) era when the snake was one of the votive offerings that were part of burials rites. 

“Zhu”, meaning “vermillion”, is the title of another of Hukuda’s exhibited art works. It is characterized by red (vermillion) color and also references traditions of the Kofun era. Red pigment was often applied in the corners of barrow burials, sometimes the whole inside of the barrows were painted with it, because it served to conserve amulets and prevent evil. The artist employed this color in six varnish paintings for which he used the pigment from Okinawa corals. A unique color is made from these corals that is impossible to reproduce artificially. 

Kofun is the name of the era of Japanese history that spans from 250 to 538 AD, it is typically considered a part of a larger period known as Jamato. The name “Kofun” comes from the word used for megalithic tombs and barrows built at that time. They varied in shape and size depending on who was buried in them. Less important citizens had kofuns with square or circular foundations. Members of the royal family were buried mostly in kofuns built on an unusual floor plan resembling a keyhole, sometimes surrounded by one or several moats. 

Shuhei Fukuda’s (1997) work is also inspired by traditional Japanese art, specifically painting. He is interested in the relationship between changeability of mass and one’s inner world as it relates to the process of aging. 

To the Kvalitář gallery, the artist brought artworks from a series that he has been creating for the past two years. The basis of the pieces consists of silver foil that has undergone a chemical reaction, the character of its subsequent development depends on its reaction with the air. Our focus is directed here to natural phenomena that are the building blocks of life. Through the use of traditional techniques and materials the artist examines his own approach to the world.

In his artistic practice, Fukuda uses Japanese paper and silver leaf as the foundations of monochromatic planes that are subject to the physical and climatic conditions of a concrete geographical location. He uses this process to analyze the ways that time, together with the surrounding environment, influence the changes of his pieces, both their physical and visual form. The aesthetic transformation is constructed as a result of the interplay between landscape, environment, and the material itself (in this case silver leaf).

“Every artwork is a reminder of what I have experienced and felt in nature during its creative process,” says the artist. “I want to emphasize that in the same way that nature and landscape reveal themselves slowly, paintings uncover their entirety gradually as well. My sense and my memory serve as mental tools that allow me to note and save moments, and to construct temporarity from the total of all our experiences. Without being bound by religion or faith I’m trying to express the surprise, affect, love, and melancholy that are brought about by the impermanence of life. These are purely human emotions that transcend superficiality and are aware of temporariness.”

The passing of time is a very important aspect of Fukuda’s work. To understand the effects that this passage has on his artworks, the artist studies the changes of physical processes of the materials: How the processes affect the piece’s final form and how they are influenced by the place in which the work is created. 

The MONOCHROME exhibition is an intimate insight into contemporary Japanese art. The visitors can experience pieces that are not subject to modern trends, to encounter artworks by a father and his son, artists that have the ability to intervene in their given spaces with such sensitivity as to create an environment filled with silence, beauty, and peace.