“Rather than those phenomena that happen in front of my eyes, I am more interested in the “relationships” that bring them into existence. Myriad invisible involvements and relationships connect all kinds of things and events and change them in all kinds of ways. I really don’t remember just when they started wriggling in front of me as beautiful and intricate “entanglements”; it was as if the forever changing moment began an entrancing dance of entanglement.”
- KANEKO Shinichi
KANEKO Shinichi Tokyo-based Japanese contemporary artist. 1974: Born. 1999: Graduated from the Department of Design, Faculty of Fine Arts, Tokyo University of the Arts. 2001: Majored in design, Graduate School of Fine Arts, Tokyo University of the Arts.
In 2013, Kaneko started production of the Couple Series with the theme of “relationships” and since then has expanded the series in broad-ranging media including sculpture, paintings, and drawings. He captures relationships as the “change triggered by the connection between things or events,” and visualizes such complicated states as “entanglement.” The entanglement manifested in the Couple Series was inspired by the sexual loving so sensuously depicted in shunga woodblock prints. Shunga, literally spring pictures, is a type of erotic ukiyo-e and a traditional Japanese art. The artist has particularly directed his attention to the entangled limbs so characteristic of shunga. He jubilantly quotes the entanglement of hands and feet, and limbs and bodies in shunga, and reconsiders the magnificent meaning contained in “relationship” and thereby continues exploring the beauty of the word.
Main exhibition venues: Solo shows: Gallery Miyasaka (from 2005); JR Yufuin Station Art Hall (2011); Kondo residence, a tangible cultural property registered by the Japanese government (2013). Group exhibitions in many galleries. His works were also exhibited in Fresh Air, a sculpture exhibition in the UK (2013); and Art Fair Tokyo (2016). A drawing was used for the graphics of a magazine advert for iichiko (shōchū distilled spirit) (from June 2018).
KANEKO Shinichi｜the Couple -Otonakoku-Meguri 2016｜ART FAIR TOKYO 2016｜CREATIVE SPACE HAYASHI
The Couple Series explores the possibilities of diverse expression.
In 2013, without limiting himself to sculpture, Kaneko began exploring the possibilities of “relationships” by applying many different techniques and representations. Currently, the Couple Series are expressed in such collections as “WAGŌ,” “RENBU,” “SHUNJI,” and “SHŌZŌGA.”
KANEKO Shinichi｜the Couple Vol.4｜2017｜GALLERY MIYASAKA
“WAGŌ” are sculpture works with a focus on the intimate entwining of hands and feet during sexual loving seen in shunga prints. Kaneko pays attention particularly to the portrayal of hands and feet in shunga, and has found that in these regions, sexual intimacy between a man and woman is at its most revealing. By taking only the two-dimensional hands and feet and recreating them in three dimensions, these works emphasize the boundaries and points of contact found wherever connections are made.
The “RENBU” works are an invitation for the viewer to discover the figures of men and women among the freely painted colors. Kaneko regularly paints many such pictures compiling an archive of graphic materials. “RENBU” literally meaning “dance of love” is an apt name for this collection; to make one of these works, several paintings are digitally processed and overlapped on the computer before he paints the screen image onto canvas as an analog work again. By combining the assembled digital arrangement and the impulsive analog painting, the artist creates lovingly intricate and intimate expressions while maintaining the balance between conscious and unconscious.
“RENBU -18/0102”(2018) / “RENBU -18/0103”(2018)
The “SHUNJI” works are hieroglyphs of sexual loving drawn in the style of Japanese calligraphic paintings. The hands and feet seen in shunga are connected with sensuous lines to represent the formula: Relationship = Entanglement. Kaneko assumes each “SHUNJI” as a dot on the line of an ensō * circle of Zen calligraphy. In other words, he considers that the ensō circle representing the world of absolute perfection is drawn not as a solid line, but rather as a series of continuous dots, each one containing relationships. These dots are of course primarily invisible, but he magnifies them as if under a microscope, and visualizes the enlarged figures as “SHUNJI.” Kaneko constantly draws “SHUNJI” in diverse ways and considers them to be a record of variations of relationships.
(* Ensō is one of the renowned Zen calligraphic art forms, in which a circle is drawn with a single brush stroke; the circle symbolizes spiritual awakening, truth, Buddha nature, the whole universe, and so on.)
Center: “SHUNJI -TAGA”(2018)
The “SHŌZŌGA” project was started in 2018 to explore expressions born from the artist’s own involvements and relationships with other people. The Japanese word shōzōga means a portrait. In the case of Kaneko, however, his “SHŌZŌGA” do not emphasize the authority, success, or happiness of a person as commonly seen in portraits; they are not intended to simply physically resemble the subject. Kaneko closely observes his model and reveals a deeply complicated inner face often difficult to connect with the surface appearance of the subject. This “SHŌZŌGA” work was inspired by a yose-e produced by UTAGAWA Kuniyoshi (1798-1861), an ukiyo-e artist around the end of the Edo period (reference photograph/left). Yose-e is a picture in which a person’s face is portrayed by cleverly assembling many small bodies of people. Kaneko, upon encountering a model, takes into account their feel and life style, and selecting his painting materials sets to work. For this project, he uses several “RENBU” works from the Couple Series. These paintings were created in a way to invite the viewer to discover the figures of men and women among the freely painted colors; he assembles them to create his “SHŌZŌGA.” Kaneko comments: “A person’s self and ego are also a part of all creation and formed by entanglement with others. When I portray an individual, I imagine all the relationships surrounding them; it is much more than their external appearance.” He always seeks to find the interaction between the forces of suction and expansion, which although invisible are present among things, and expresses this as entanglement. “SHŌZŌGA” encourages the viewer to question themselves and ask, “Who am I?” and also gives an opportunity to meet face to face the many aspects that make up each person.
reference photograph/left：UTAGAWA Kuniyoshi