Last week marked the opening of Japanese painter Noritake Kinashi’s first solo exhibition in the United States, at the Japanese gallery ‘hpgrp’ in New York. Noritake Kinashi is foremost a famous comedian in Japan, with his own tv show and cult following. On top of this, Noritake has been painting for the last twenty years and has been shown widely in Japan. He currently has a a major exhibition of 300 works touring 6 museums throughout Japan. When the Ueno Royal Museum in Tokyo had his show last year, it was the third highest daily turnout in the Museums history. First Picasso, then Dali and 3 rd Noritake.
When I entered the gallery I felt the work was very lively and invigorating. At first glance, the paintings seem remarkably childlike. They carry a colorful and happy glow. Noritake is clearly untrained and a “primitive” painter but, the more I looked at the show in its entirity, it became more and more apparent that the technical simplicity of Noritake’s paintings is deceptive. There lies something very stirring beneath the surface.
The show begins with four small paintings of Mt. Fuji, that to me, act as a metaphor for the entire show. Pretty on the outside while underneath there lives a churning force. This prompted me to think about what it means to be a comedian. Aren’t they known for using mundane jokes as a way of saying something deeply personal and painful?
Noritake’s early works are small 8×10 inch paintings. There are a few works depicting freestanding lonely single houses. He paints with impasto strokes and mixed media. They stand isolated against a colorful background. His recent paintings however, are much bigger and more ambitious. These transform into 6 foot long works of sprawling crowded city scrapes, energetically painted. The vista of buildings are built up in texture and are highly reminiscent of DuBuffet.
Mixed in with his architectural exteriors are an ongoing series of works depicting hands. The painting attached is titled Reaching Out. Its dark gestural under painting is topped with a pattern of hands, in a style that picks up where Kusama left off. I couldn’t help but wonder if the sea of hands in this painting were in some way related to Noritake’s everyday reality of seeing the hands that clap for him as a celebrity comedian. Amazing I thought: that he can be so emersed in the public eye and yet also be creative, quietly in his own studio. While I’ve never seen his comedy talents, I can say as a painter, I think he is a sincere and true artist.
Words/Photo (Detail) : Lizanne Merrill © Artlyst 2015