Born 1962 Tokyo, Japan
Takashi Murakami’s work refers to a variety of cultural, political, social and historical contexts concerning the relationships between high art and popular culture, East and West, contemporary art and traditional Japanese art, art and capitalism. He is part of a generation of artists whose visual vocabulary is steeped in popular culture. Mass produced toys, television, film, pop music, Disney, computer games, manga and animee are all points of reference for his work. American culture was an important influence on him as a child, knowledge of which was available second-hand through his father, who became fascinated with America whilst working there on a naval base.
Mushrooms are a recurrent motif in Murakami’s work. As a child, the artist would spend hours in his garden looking at mushrooms grown by his mother. This memory came back to him when he was drawing variations on a theme. Some four hundred varieties exist and are represented in his paintings paintings and in sculptures, alone and with Murakami’s other characters. A number of references can be made to the mushroom – the hallucinogenic, the magical, the atomic. Murakami’s mushrooms are also an allusion to Takehisha Yumeji, a very popular artist and illustrator from the early twentieth century, who sought to find the balance between fine and applied art and used the mushroom as a cute motif that appealed to the female taste. Murakami says about his mushrooms: “For me they seem both erotic and cute while evoking – especially for the Western imagination – the fantastic world of fairy tale. I thought that, by uniting the eroticism and the magic side of mushrooms, I could use them as motifs in my work.” Eyes, often wide open with emerald green irises, sometimes half-closed, are a recurring decorative motif on the mushrooms.
Murakami has created several characters, including Kaikai and Kiki, Mr Oval, Mr Cloud, Machikado-kun and Kitagawa-kun,. Kitagawa is the name of a boy and kun being an endearing suffix meaning ‘little’ or ‘kid’, this character is the most human of Murakami’s creations. Kitagawa-kun appears in sculptural form in this exhibition and greets the visitor as they enter the galleries.