Hiroshi Senju is noted for his sublime waterfall images, often monumental in scale. He combines a minimalist visual language rooted in Abstract Expressionism with ancient painting techniques unique to Japan. With incredible delicacy, he pours paint onto mulberry paper on board, creating the sensation of rushing water.
The artist has two installations in this exhibition: an immersive fluorescent piece on the museum’s second floor and a black-and-white work on the first floor.
For the second-floor installation, Ryujin I and Ryujin II, panels painted in fluorescent pigments have been mounted onto articulating screens. The works appear black and white in daylight and electric blue when viewed under ultraviolet light. Although the waterfall motif is reminiscent of archetypes from Zen Buddhism and traditional East Asian landscape painting, the artist views it a symbol of our temperate planet earth, where the presence of liquid water permits life. “I feel the universe is one, with no boundaries,” he says. “And in the age of the internet the world has changed dramatically. Where should I base my thoughts? What is the basis for thinking about the world? The definition of beauty has not changed; meaning has not changed.”
Senju is also widely recognized as one of the few contemporary masters of the thousand-year-old nihonga style of painting, using pigments made from minerals, ground stone, shell and corals suspended in animal-hide glue. Senju drew on this tradition to create Suijin. Evoking a deep sense of calm, these waterfalls conjure not only the appearance of rushing water, but its sound, smell and feel.
Hiroshi Senju was the first Asian artist to receive an Honorable Mention Award at the 46th International Art Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia, 1995, and has participated in exhibitions including the Beauty Project in 1996 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, London; The New Way of Tea, curated by Alexandra Munroe, at the Japan Society and the Asia Society in New York in 2002; and Paintings on Fusuma, at the Tokyo National Museum in 2003.
Public installations include seventy-seven murals at Jukoin, a sub-temple of Daitokuji, a Zen Buddhist temple in Japan and a large waterfall at Haneda Airport International Passenger Terminal in Tokyo. The Benesse Art Site of Naoshima Island also houses two large-scale installations.
Senju’s work is in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, Toyama, Japan; the Yamatane Museum of Art, Tokyo; Tokyo University of the Arts; and the Kushiro Art Museum, Hokkaido, Japan. In 2009, Skira Editore published a monograph of his work titled Hiroshi Senju. The Hiroshi Senju Museum Karuizawa, designed by Ryue Nishizawa, opened in 2011 in Japan.
Born in Tokyo, 1958 | Lives and works in New York
Ryujin I (Day), 2014, acrylic and fluorescent pigments on Japanese mulberry paper, 7.9 x 37.4 feet/2.4 x 11 meters
Suijin, 2015, natural pigments on Japanese mulberry paper mounted on board, three panels each 8.5 x 6.4 feet/2.6 x 2 meters
Ryujin I (Night)
Ryujin II (Day), 2014, acrylic and fluorescent pigments on Japanese mulberry paper, 7.9 x 37.4 feet/2.4 x 11 meters
Ryujin II (Night)
Photographs © 2015 Nacasa & Partners Inc.