Suehiro Maruo, Usamaru Furuya, Junko Mizuno, Kanako Inuki, Toru Terada
At once ornament and offering, the lotus is a flower both spiritual – as a symbol of the Buddha, for instance – and philosophical, in that it is rhizomatic. In the lotus cause and effect appear simultaneously: the seed and the flower. Even stranger than the water lily – another aquatic flower, which floats serenely on ponds, lakes and backwaters – the lotus, driven by some singular aspiration, rises and flowers above still waters, drawing its energy from the silt and mud that in Asia represent inner disturbance, the passions and suffering, and transforming them into exquisite, ineffable beauty.
From sludge to sublimity, then. In this case the principle of conversion and transmutation being the art of the Manga 1 the art of «freely drawn» or «whimsical» images.
The Manga we know today is as much a child of the Japanese artistic tradition as of the trauma of the War and the atom bomb. Its first master was Tezuka and its first hero Astroboy, a robot-child created by a scientist rendered inconsolable by the loss of his son. Astroboy’s begetter went on to construct the girl robot Uran (short for Uranium) and a second boy, Cobalt (another metal used for making atomic bombs): these were machine children endowed with superpowers, destined to save humanity and bearing the same names as the radioactive substances that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki…
Unique in our time, Manga has become a culture, a world and an industry whose stories and characters appear in the print media, films, video games and tie-ins. It also represents a resource pool many contemporary artists have no qualms about exploiting.
The feudal world, science-fiction and everyday life, cyborgs, magical creatures and perfectly ordinary characters, animal impulses, kitsch heroism and sentimentality: beyond the conventional codes of the types of Manga targeting specific readerships – Shounen for boys, Shoujo for girls, Seinen for adults – there also exist unclassifiable experimental books hinging more on deep experience than on mere entertainment. Whether Manga’s critics like it or not, these books are «dangerous» in that they represent a host of thresholds, doorways and channels leading to visionary, nightmarish, grotesque worlds whose common characteristic seems to be the absorption of those who look into them.
Yoshikazu Ebisu, Usamaru Furuya, Kanako Inuki, Suehiro Maruo, Junko Mizuno and Toru Terada: it is to these dedicated practitioners of the draughtsman’s art that this exhibition is devoted.
1. The word Manga dates from the 18th century and became an everyday term with the publication of the Hokusai Manga, books of prints by the celebrated Japanese artist Hokusai (1760–1849). The modern version made its appearance in the 20th century, notably after World War Two, and since then the word has come to mean any kind of comic.