about shun kawakami
by Satoru Yamashita
(+81 magazine & tokyo graphic passport / creative director)
I've known Shun Kawakami since he was 23, and the fundamental stance of his works remains unchanged. In them, he is continually searching for a comfortable "space" known in Japanese as Ma. The "space" referred to by this term is different from minimalism and indicates an area characterized by both permanence and tension.
What comes to mind for me whenever I discuss "space" is the philosophy of Sen no Rikyu's tea ceremony. Rikyu provided permanence, space, and tension for the hosts and guests in a small, modest room. In doing so, he gave rise to the perception of "space" existing within a confined area and drew attention to the possibility of an instant of time removed from the vulgarity of the outside world.
In painting, we can find such "space" in the "emptiness" seen in the"Shorin-zu Byobu" screen by Tohaku Hasegawa (who was incidentally a close friend of Rikyu's) as well as in Sotatsu Tawaraya's "Fujin and Raijin." The sort of blank space found in both of these works evinces the presence of powerful colliding forces and tension and has become beloved amongst the Japanese.
Kawakami's portrayals that make use of empty space bring a tension to the image, as if it were suspended from all four corners by a thread. Indeed, the dense, complexly molded forms placed within this space seem more like calligraphy than pictorial representation. Adding interactive movement, audio, and a time axis to this complex creates a comfortable "space" that is entirely unique to Kawakami.
Kawakami, who started off as a graphic designer, incorporates everything from web motion, music, and graphic art technology to programming and artistic quality into his creations while establishing a work environment of mutual compromise between himself and society. He provides a comfortable "space" in which the client is the "guest" and the creator is the "host." This also carries over into Kawakami's private work as an artist, where he grants us the chance to behold a world made up of his pleasant style of space, and it is this that makes his artwork so fascinating.