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Kazuo Shiraga at Axel Vervoordt Gallery

The Axel Vervoordt Gallery is launching its new space at Kanaal in Antwerp with a retrospective of Japanese Gutai master Kazuo Shiraga.

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Text by Nadine Botha

Previously located in central Antwerp, the Axel Vervoordt Gallery is relocating to a former 19th-century industrial site on the outskirts of the city called Kanaal. Setting the tone for the new cultural and residential complex, the gallery is celebrating an artist that has inspired its work: Kazuo Shiraga.

Shiraga was a significant member of Gutai, an avant-garde Japanese movement that emphasised ‘concreteness’ or ’embodiment’. Seeking new processes of making, Shiraga developed a form of action paintings and live performances, sometimes suspended above canvases or using his feet to paint. Initially he worked with pulverised mineral pigments and glue, but later returned to oil paint. A selection of his most important paintings made between the 1960s and 1980s will be shown.

“While Shiraga’s work conveys the essence of Japanese culture, it centres on bold expressions unlike anything in Japanese art until that point. And though the artist used Western materials, he made work that was inconceivable to Western people, giving rise to a unique spirituality and expressivity,” gallery director Boris Vervoordt explains the significance of the artist’s work. “Shiraga has been a constant source of inspiration for our work, and we are both delighted and privileged to open our new gallery which such an important retrospective of his oeuvre.”

Also opening at Kanaal alongside the gallery, are curated displays of the Axel and May Vervoordt Foundation’s collection. The entire Kanaal development comprises 98 apartments and lofts, as well as offices, artist studios, galleries and event spaces, in existing buildings and extensions that accentuate and revive the historical site. It is scheduled for completion in spring 2017.

Axel Vervoordt. Photo: Bertrand Limbour
Axel Vervoordt. Photo: Bertrand Limbour
Choryo (1990) by Kazuo Shiraga, oil paint on canvas 227 x 182 cm
Choryo (1990) by Kazuo Shiraga, oil paint on canvas 227 x 182 cm
Suiju (1985) by Kazuo Shiraga, oil paint on canvas 194 x 259 cm
Suiju (1985) by Kazuo Shiraga, oil paint on canvas 194 x 259 cm
Installation view of Kazuo Shiraga retrospective. Photo: Jan Liégeois
Installation view of Kazuo Shiraga retrospective. Photo: Jan Liégeois
Chiyusei Seibokukan (1961) by Kazuo Shiraga, oil on canvas 130 x 195 cm
Chiyusei Seibokukan (1961) by Kazuo Shiraga, oil on canvas 130 x 195 cm
Kanaal overview. Photo: Jan Liégeois
Kanaal overview. Photo: Jan Liégeois
Silos at Kanaal. Photo: Jan Liégeois
Silos at Kanaal. Photo: Jan Liégeois
White Silos. Photo: Jan Liégeois
White Silos. Photo: Jan Liégeois
Pakhuizen at Kanaal. Photo: Jan Liégeois
Pakhuizen at Kanaal. Photo: Jan Liégeois
Korean Library with archaeological collection Photo: Jean-Pierre Gabriel
Korean Library with archaeological collection Photo: Jean-Pierre Gabriel
Loft at Kanaal. Photo: Jan Liégeois
Loft at Kanaal. Photo: Jan Liégeois
Letter Boxes at Waterhuis, Kanaal. Photo: Jan Liégeois
Letter Boxes at Waterhuis, Kanaal. Photo: Jan Liégeois
Malting building for Anish Kapoor. Photo: Jan Liégeois
Malting building for Anish Kapoor. Photo: Jan Liégeois
At the Edge of the World (1998) by Anish Kapoor. Photo: Jan Liégeois
At the Edge of the World (1998) by Anish Kapoor. Photo: Jan Liégeois
Lohan, Chinese, 13d Century. Photo: Jean-Pierre Gabriel
Lohan, Chinese, 13d Century. Photo: Jean-Pierre Gabriel
Bae Bien-U. Photo: Jan Liégeois
Bae Bien-U. Photo: Jan Liégeois
Entrance of Silo. Photo: Jan Liégeois
Entrance of Silo. Photo: Jan Liégeois
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