flatness

Takashi Murakami: Flatness in 3D

I never knew how flat a painting could possibly be, until I saw the collection of Takashi Murakami at Broad. So flat. As flat as an iPhone screen. As flat as a blade straight out of a knife sharpener. Super flat.

murakami_my_arms

My arms and legs rot off and though my blood rushes forth, the tranquility of my heart shall be prized above all. (Red blood, black blood, blood that is not blood), 2007, acrylic and platinum leaf on canvas mounted on board, signage in platinum and gold leaf

^ Yes, that is the full title of the painting.

I wanted to touch it so bad. Of course I didn’t. Instead, I looked it from the left, from the right, from all kinds of side angles. After looking at it for 10 minutes, I still couldn’t convince myself to believe that it was painted, instead of digitally printed.

My friend told me that Takashi Murakami hires a group of young artists to execute his paintings and make them super flat. Poor young artists. I feel bad for them.

There’s something theatrical about seeing a giant flat 2D object in a 3D space. In comparison, when you see the picture of the painting above, the picture is flat, but you can’t tell if that implies the original painting is flat. There’s a difference between the 2D projection of a 3D object, and an actual 2D object in a 3D space. You need to be in a three-dimensional space to recognize if something is inherently two-dimensional or just a projection. We see 2D objects all the time, film, photography, manga, etc, but it is still such a novel experience to view Takashi Murakami’s superflatness in a 3D context.

In one of his interviews, Murakami mentioned that the ‘superflat’ movement ties back to flatness of post-war Japanese culture, but for me I see it more as a reminder that paintings are three-dimensional art. By taking away the bumps and the brush strokes, he draws attention to the lack of texture, and therefore reminds us the importance of texture as an artistic expression.

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