Masatomo Kuriya Sunflower with String

Description:
Image © Masatomo Kuriya. Used here by kind permission from the artist. All rights reserved.

Created:
1988

Masatomo Kuriya Head

Description:
Image © Masatomo Kuriya. Used here by kind permission from the artist. All rights reserved.

Created:
1990

Masatomo Kuriya Sunflower in Red #1

Description:
Image © Masatomo Kuriya. Used here by kind permission from the artist. All rights reserved.

Created:
1992

Masatomo Kuriya Sunflower

Description:
Image © Masatomo Kuriya. Used here by kind permission from the artist. All rights reserved.

Created:
1992

Masatomo Kuriya Three Sunflowers

Description:
Image © Masatomo Kuriya. Used here by kind permission from the artist. All rights reserved.

Created:
1992

Masatomo Kuriya Sunflower in Red #6

Description:
Image © Masatomo Kuriya. Used here by kind permission from the artist. All rights reserved.

Created:
1992

Masatomo Kuriya Monster Head

Description:
Image © Masatomo Kuriya. Used here by kind permission from the artist. All rights reserved.

Created:
1992

Masatomo Kuriya Monster Head with Ring

Description:
Image © Masatomo Kuriya. Used here by kind permission from the artist. All rights reserved.

Created:
1992

Masatomo Kuriya Cosmos

Description:
Image © Masatomo Kuriya. Used here by kind permission from the artist. All rights reserved.

Created:
1993

Masatomo Kuriya Six Heads

Description:
Image © Masatomo Kuriya. Used here by kind permission from the artist. All rights reserved.

Created:
1993

Masatomo Kuriya Five Heads

Description:
Image © Masatomo Kuriya. Used here by kind permission from the artist. All rights reserved.

Created:
1994

Masatomo Kuriya Two Heads

Description:
Image © Masatomo Kuriya. Used here by kind permission from the artist. All rights reserved.

Created:
1994

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"The flowers which I collect here seem to insist on each other to compete for the instant," says Japanese photographer Masatomo Kuriya about his floral arrangements.

“Giving a new life to their parts, I tried to hold a moment of brightness, through all of quiet time and memories, for their death and decay, and also for their eternal life,” he continues. Much like in his Black & White series, the artist invites to a synaesthetic reception of his compositions in photographs resonant with Western and Japanese aesthetics which focus on the poetry of object-mood assortment and share distinct relations with the flat surfaces of the backgrounds. Full of grace and symbolically layered so as to express the transience of life, the photographs in the Red series no longer keep the proud and august posture of Black & White. Set against a red, sumptuous background, Kuriya’s flowers are bleak, sere, and inauspicious, like crowns of withering nature and moments, or rust adumbrating the fading time. Reminiscent of ikebana and its range of formal, conceptual, compositional, and pictorial intensity, the Red series is a meditation on the closing of a cycle. Often associated with royalty or nobility, the red setting lays its grasp over the sear nature at dawn. Its intensity is no longer that of passion, lust, or exuberance but rather a strangling grip that hunts all life away.

The power of red is not new to contemporary art, its use and importance dating back to ancient times. In the second millennium B.C. already, the Neolithic cave painters in Lascaux, France, were using red earth mineral pigments to highlight their black charcoal figures of animals and humans. It is the ardent and devouring red of fire and blood alike, associated with life-giving and protective powers, as well as madness, uproar, and the perfervid. A sign of wealth and stature in society in many cultures until the 19th century, in Kuriya’s photographs it seems to reverse the orders and claim a power of its own. It is no longer associated with luck or joy, but captures the shadows cast by the shrivelled flowers as if retaining their essence. Abstracted until they reach their intrinsic fundamental quality, the flowers are captured in carefully staged compositions based on simple, clear lines, that nevertheless succeed in creating a universal harmony and a sense of restoration. By abstracting the very reality of these flowers, Kuriya transforms the material into spiritual and explores intricate issues of composition, ephemerality, shadow and depth, volume, and the ornamental power of flower imagery. Harmony, purity, and tranquility become transcending powers that transfigure the order of nature and the common into a powerful aesthetic, emotional, and symbolical language.

Text by Sabin Bors, May 18, 2015

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