Perhaps the most influential artist working in Japan during the 1960s and 1970s, Jiro Takamatsu altered the evolution of visual art in Japan as an artist, theorist, and teacher. As a cofounder of the legendary collective Hi Red Center in 1963 and the central inspiration for Mono-Ha, Takamatsu dominated Japanese artistic discourse during these years.
His work would be incomprehensible without acknowledging the discourse and aesthetic precedents of Surrealism and Minimalism, as well as his background in the Anti-Art and Neo- Dada movements. A contrarian by nature, Takamatsu challenged the prevailing orthodoxy of paintings purged of representation and sculptures that emphasized truth to materials and the anti-illusional.
Takamatsu had studied painting at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music but had become disillusioned by its limitations. Thus when he began making Shadow paintings in 1964, he was searching for a new foundation to reimagine the practice. Key to this reappraisal was Pliny’s story of the origin of painting with the tracing of a shadow, and Takamatsu began making intriguing visual puzzles with single or multiple cast shadows of people and objects (often distorted) in gray paint on white wooden supports and canvases. In most cases, the person or object casting the shadow is missing, creating a pictorial and narrative absence. The Shadow paintings are wide open to interpretation in all manner of formal, psychological, and sociopolitical terms.