HUMAN COLORS

Painter MATSUMI KANEMITSU, nickname MIKE

by Rosanna Albertini

Early 1950s in New York. It seems that Jackson Pollock started to call him Mike. Kanemitsu was one of the artists going to the Greenwich Village Cedar Bar as Pollock did, and Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, de Kooning, Phillip Guston, Joan Mitchell, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouak, Frank O’Hara, Lee Krasner. Women, I read, were treated like cows. “In 1956 his work was included in a Whitney Annual, and in 1962 Kanemitsu was one of the 14 Americans at the Museum of Modern Art. And yet, his name remains largely absent from most histories of the New York art world in the fifties.” (John Yau)

Please read the beautiful story written by John Yau for The Brooklyn Rail, May 16th, 2008: “Kanemitsu in California during the 1960s and 1970s.”

Why his name disappeared from the New York scene remains a page of unanswered questions. Maybe Mike was tired of New York. Or he was more Japanese than American: although born in Utah in 1922, he grew up near Hiroshima from the age of three. After coming back to the U.S. in 1940 he was drafted in the army (442nd infantry) and had his first one man show on the army. Had he stayed in Japan he would have been drafted in the Japanese army. The place, in time of war, becomes a demanding home. For a double citizen, the war is a splitting knife. Los Angeles had a bigger sky, just in front of Japan. Maybe a less vertical city than New York, a better place for scattered lives keeping two souls, or more, in one body. Mike stepped out of human time in 1992, we can’t ask him.

MATSUMI KANEMITSU, The Hunter, 1960, Oil on canvas Courtesy of Nancy Uyemura

MATSUMI KANEMITSU, The Hunter, 1960  Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Nancy Uyemura

But his work is here, I’ll ask his paintings. They resurfaced from his studio only at the end of last year, 2014, for a double exhibition at The Mistake Room, Los Angeles: Ed Clark—Matsumi Kanemitsu. Exposed to the public for the very first time. Once more, I resist calling them ab-s-tractions as if they were portraits of real fragments, cut out from the space around us, or pulled off the ground like a tree. That’s a pre-neurosciences standpoint. Colors are not qualities of things separate from us.

Artists participate in the sacred dance of nature like everybody else. But their work goes further, disclosing the personal forms of pain, joy, surprise and their difficult conversation. Which could be what happens in The Hunter, Kanemitsu made it in New York in 1960. There were sky and sun and depth somewhere, until a black looking like bitumen floated over a sort of screen bringing flatness, hiding them. Not completely though; figures of light, Proserpina’s hands, push from underneath the edges of blackness. The dark blocks could be bodies (not necessarily human) making love, or uncertain petals of an unknown flower. Time to leave.

MATSUMI KANEMITSU, Hawaii #3, 1973  acrylic on canvas Courtesy of Nancy Uyemura

MATSUMI KANEMITSU, Hawaii #3, 1973  Acrylic on canvas
Courtesy of Nancy Uyemura

Colors are like pain, no one feels pain −and sees colors− in the same way. So it’s a real mystery the way artists go beyond intellectual barriers, the countless ways they manifest the world absorbed and reshaped in playful, unpredictable forms. Hawaii #3,1973, is a fluid dream of bodies with no edges, liquid and impermanent, made with air and water and long necks veined with red, to remind us of blood and all those channels, even in fantasy creatures. In Winterstorm, 1978, we can feel the tension of a mental storm. Yet, I could be completely wrong. It’s hard to be a viewer. Like Ed Clark’s paintings, Mike’s canvasses expel the stiffness of meanings and categories. They are gentle, and free. They are beautiful.

They make me dream of an age (imagined, of course) in which “words and things were not yet separate — different beings adapted to one another, trees connecting to the animals, the earth with the ocean, and humans with everything around them.” (Michel Foucault) In the natural magic, all the figures in the world would relate to each other by similarity: the sky has eyes and the earth has mouths. No need of words.

MATSUMI KANEMITSU, Winterstorm, 1978  acrylic on canvas Courtesy of Nancy Uyemura

MATSUMI KANEMITSU, Winterstorm, 1978  Acrylic on canvas
Courtesy of Nancy Uyemura

MEMORY IS A TRIVIAL THING COMPARED TO THE SOUL

TEXTS AND IMAGES  from  S H U C H I   M E H T A  

(b.1987) Self-taught artist living and working in Mumbai, India. (I thank Nancy Uyemura who recently put me in touch with this artist, R.A.)

SHUCHI MEHTA, The Memory Slots  Pigeon holing different events, experiences and feelings in the brain  32" x 32" x 2"  MDF and automotive paint on wood Courtesy of the artist

SHUCHI MEHTA, The Memory Slots,  Pigeon holing different events, experiences and feelings in the brain
32″ x 32″ x 2″ MDF and automotive paint on wood
Courtesy of the artist

SHUCHI MEHTA, The memory Slots, Side View

SHUCHI MEHTA, The memory Slots, Side View

Need of the Hour (11th February, 2013)

In the midst of the crowd, / Quite a chaos around, / Getting harder to seek, / Real means for some peace

 Many things to distract us, / Shift our focus away, /  Leaving us with just nothing but, / Misery and pain

  In this ocean too vast, / Where we sail around, / Most of us lack direction, / To our “self ”-destination

  It’s the need of the hour, / To look for yourself,  / For the journey ahead, /  Is what you select

SHUCHI META, Barriers to Freedom, Intimation of vastness through the prison house of the mind  50" x 50" x 3" Wood, automotive paint and acrylic paint on wood Courtesy of the artist

SHUCHI META, Barriers to Freedom, Intimation of vastness through the prison house of the mind
50″ x 50″ x 3″ Wood, automotive paint and acrylic paint on wood
Courtesy of the artist

SHUCHI MEHTA, Barriers to Freedom, Side View

SHUCHI MEHTA, Barriers to Freedom, Side View

 

SHUCHI MEHTA, The Bubble  Photograph taken in Central Park, New York, 2013

SHUCHI MEHTA, The Bubble
Photograph taken in Central Park, New York, 2013

 

There are many things which I believe we tend to take for granted and don’t pay much attention to. We tend to talk about memories but don’t ever ponder as to how the memories are created and how the human brain functions. Out of so many things we encounter in our life, why is it that we tend to remember certain things very distinctly despite the longest passage of time? In everything that one does, one tends to give too much importance to everything else but the self – the one who is the know-er and the see-er. Memories are just the consequence but the source is more of an interest to me.

I believe memories are too limited a storage in comparison to the soul’s power and capacity to know. The property of the soul is to simply know and in such a case it doesn’t have to remember but everything effortlessly reflects. This state is that of a spiritually advanced, self-realised soul. Currently the state of most of us is the one without self-realisation. We are all caught in a dark room trying to find a ray of light. ( Dark room used as a metaphor for the life full of sorrow and the ray of light as a metaphor to finding that one solution to happiness ). In the process, some become desperate to find their way to brightness while some accept the darkness. The ones with an intensity to find their way to brightness are the ones who will sooner or later realise their selves. While the one who accept darkness tend to become immune to darkness and forget their need to encounter brightness.

Once one realises ones true self it is not about the efforts to remember but it is all about effortless reflection of pure knowledge. One then becomes like a mirror. A mirror doesn’t make efforts to reflect the image. When the water is churning, it is tough to see one’s own reflection but once the water becomes still, it is possible to see the reflection. So is the case with us. We tend to churn ourselves with insane number of thoughts that does not allow us to connect with our true self. Till we do not realise the true self, the whole life is spent being the false self- one’s ego.  

Memory is too trivial a thing to focus on in comparison to the soul’s power to know the unlimited. I too am stuck in various thoughts of my own that are an obstacle to realise myself ( my soul ) and hence every opportunity I get, I try to analyse its relevance to overcoming the hurdle.  

http://www.shuchiumehta.com