Ahead of his upcoming Gagosian Hong Kong exhibit, Takashi Murakami took to Instagram to showcase a duo of new paintings and the inspiration behind the exhibition. After warning of the rambling text to follow, the Japanese creative correctly asserts that “2018 has been quite an amazing year for artist Takashi Murakami. You could say I’m in my artistic prime, a fish at its peak fattiness. Really, it’s the best year ever for me.” Later, he touches on his brush with gout and resulting fear of mortality: “I abhor and fear the physical pain and mental suffering in the process of approaching death. It’s as though I am producing paintings as a prescribed method of alleviating such fear.”
Murakami also revealed that the show, which opens on September 20, is now dubbed “Change the Rule!” The full text is inscribed in red Japanese text on the black paintings, read the full dialogue in his Instagram posts below.
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My exhibition, which opens on September 20, 2018 at Gagosian Hong Kong, is now titled Change the Rule!, but I had actually proposed two options. The other one, I believe, better articulated the essence of this show. It went rambling on like this: I think 2018 has been quite an amazing year for artist Takashi Murakami. You could say I’m in my artistic prime, a fish at its peak fattiness. Really, it’s the best year ever for me, with enough guts, energy, and spirit to take on one challenge after another, turning ideas into works in quick succession. This is an exhibition that takes place in Hong Kong in the fall of this optimal year. Now, you might wonder what I’m scribbling down here on this small painting. This is an attempt to apologetically explain how I was unable to complete one of the large works I had promised for the show and ended up inconveniencing the gallery. In a sense it’s an apology for not making the deadline but it also explains why things have turned out the way they have—essentially, it’s my excuse. But by spelling things out in detail here, I hope to share with you the torment of an artist or the environment surrounding artistic creation. On that note, I will explain the process of my painting production. When I was 36, I suffered from gout. Shortly after New Year’s Day, my right leg swelled up and doubled in size; I had to cut my jeans open from the hip to get my leg out. Tan Tan Bo Puking—a.k.a. Gerotan was my first work in which I depicted the way I might deal with the fear of steadily approaching death due to aging. It’s not death itself or the world beyond death that I’m afraid of—rather, I abhor and fear the physical pain and mental suffering in the process of approaching death. It’s as though I am producing paintings as a prescribed method of alleviating such fear. When you are young, your brain’s instantaneous force alone can haul the process of generating artwork; your body is also fresh, so you can binge drink and party hard with friends—though since I didn’t do drugs, having been turned off after a bad trip from smoking ganja when I visited Nepal at age 25, I would just smoke cigarettes and pull all-nighters playing games, ?
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? so it was nothing hardcore. I was just a tame-ish otaku and did nothing close to snorting cocaine through the nose and screaming nonsense like a punk rock musician. Still, I did have a girlfriend or two so I enjoyed my lukewarm youth in my otaku way to a degree, and the resulting healthy blood circulation through my brain would be the source of my creative instantaneous force. As I age, however, all manners of bodily and mental functions are becoming dull and whenever I decide to paint, I now simply must focus on painting; I can no longer scoop up any new ideas unless I dive deep into the world of my painting for hours and days on end. I’m 56 at the time of this writing/painting. In the past 4 years, the process of aging has been speeding up exponentially and I have to spend ever longer immersed in my head in order to dig deep in to a given theme. It’s suffocating, as though I’m holding my breath and diving underwater. Right at this moment, as I write this text on this painting, I have been under for about a week without taking a breath, so to be honest I feel like crying for help. When I’m lucky, I can snatch an idea quickly by diving into my brain, but if not, I must spend crosslegged inside my head for 10 days to 3 weeks like Daruma (Bodhidharma). If I unthinkingly have a sip of sake and relax my brain, the preceding several days I spent focused would be wasted, so I really can’t let my guard down. I can understand the reason why a painter, a writer, or a musician would gradually lose their mind or kill themselves. Because the only way to arrive at a fresh idea is for one to crack open the shell of one’s self and expose what is within, one may endure such a process. The only people who can survive are those who can shrug it off. Once I manage to snatch the tail of an idea, I must then transport a fragment of it to a completely different region of my brain, which is a relaxed region. Just earlier I said relaxing is no good, but there are various regions in my brain each dedicated to creating paintings, making movies and animations, producing hamburgers, running a company, operating galleries, or managing artists, ?
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? and each and every one of them has deadlines. Once a deadline is met, that region could relax, so I graft the new idea onto that relaxed region in order to nurture and grow it. This is the process I endlessly repeat, and as such, I can never see the end of it; a day of unease is endlessly followed by another, and only for a moment when a project is complete do I get to experience a modicum of sense of liberation. As a distant result of such a thankless, humorless repetition, interesting works get made. Dealing with this unbroken chain of tension and relief is truly a hard labor and I have recently come to realize that I can only continue doing this for a few more years. This is why I suggested I think 2018 has been quite an amazing year for artist Takashi Murakami. You could say I’m in my artistic prime, a fish at its peak fattiness. Really, it’s the best year ever for me, with enough guts, energy, and spirit to take on one challenge after another, turning ideas into works in quick succession. This is an exhibition that takes place in Hong Kong in the fall of this optimal year. as the title of this show, but Nick Simunovic of Gagosian Hong Kong chose the other, shorter option… But what I wrote in that long title is my true feeling. At the same time, I have to tackle the new challenge of how to overcome my artistic limits and move forward for the next 10 years, which makes my spirit deflate even more. ? translation @tabi_the_fat Yuko Burtless Sakata ?♂️