Jun Inoue was raised in regional Kanagawa, Japan, where he studied Shodō (traditional Japanese calligraphy). His grand father, a Zen Monk, became a major influence on his philosophy and aesthetic vision. Upon moving to Tokyo, the energy of the city’s underground - jungle, hip-hop and most importantly, graffiti - played a major role in further shaping his aesthetic development.
At the time, Tokyo graffiti had become focused on distinctive sweeping movements and minimalistic abstract shapes, a stylistic direction inspired by visionary Tokyo artists Kami and Sasu. It was in this scene that Jun found the platform for his unique vision.
Stripping both Graffiti and Shodō back to a single common element, Jun’s artwork combines powerful and energetic movement with contemplative, Zen-line elegance. By finding a balance between the two traditions, Jun has given them both renewed relevance and context.
Exhibitions by Jun Inoue
Modern Japanese culture is, at times, a frenetic mash-up of international influences. Advertisements from Coca-Cola, Supreme and Mercedes illuminate Tokyo’s streets; L.A slang infects the language; all while Andy Warhol mixes with Francis Bacon to inspire Takeshi Murakami.
Hidden within the manic expression of Western iconography, there is something uniquely Japanese; a cultural tradition behind the aesthetic framework. This ‘something’ has roots as far back as Buddhiusm’s influence in Nara period (8th Century), when the flowering of expression in the late Muromachi period (15th Century) brought popularity to Zen. The spiritual influence of Zen brought an interconnected sense between humanity and nature. It is the organic aesthetic that comes to our minds when we think of ‘traditional’ Japanese art. It is called wabi-sabi; It is Ikebana; It is “mono no aware”, ‘the awareness of things’. It is the Japanese tea ceremony. It is Zen. It is best described as the term ‘Shibui'.
Despite ubiquity and cultural importance, emerging Japanese artists in the 90’s and 2000’s started to view traditional Japanese aesthetics as kitsch and antiquated. They cast it aside, eager to join the global artistic narrative that swelled to dominance during the rise of the internet. Since then Shibui has fallen out of vogue, slipping into it’s current position as an invisible framework from which Japan processes western iconography.
Is there some way to modernise and revive traditional Japanese aesthetics? Could an artist, drawing on tradition, create something that will inspire Japanese artists and designers to embrace their cultural history. Is there a new era of contemporary, Japanese aesthetics on the horizon?
2014, Hybrid Minds
In Hybrid Minds, Jun Inoue presents a series of andrenaline-charged works, minimalist works which reconcile the art of pre-meiji Japan with modern Tokyo street culture.
Inoue’s unique brand of abstract expression is born of two seemingly opposed art forms: the traditional calligraphy learnt from his grandfather, a zen monk, and the Tokyo graffiti of the early 2000s. Anyone who has been lucky enough to see a live paint can attest to the metaphysical dimension of his works, which are as much performances as paintings. The solidity and grace of the forms which fall from his brush are evidence of the deeper philosophical foundation behind the gesture.
The Buddhist term “KUH” means to understand nothingness. This concept is keenly expressed through the interplay between negative and positive space in much of Jun’s artwork. KUH is also the title for Jun Inoue’s upcoming exhibition at Backwoods Gallery, where he will be presenting a collection of new paintings on paper and canvas. During the opening night the gallery will become the stage for a live paint performance, as Jun completes the final piece of the show in front of our guests.
2011, New Yellow 01
The negative space surrounding objects, the objects themselves and resulting delicate dialogue between these elements is the focus on Jun Inoue’s latest body of work.
A classical theme which characterizing the essence of Ikki the aethetic legacy of the sublime intricate simplicity of Zen Buddhism.
Jun’s work however brings a new dimension to the practice as he is a key member of the latest generation of Tokyo street artists who approach this classic practice by combining modern Zen aesthetics with the environmental interaction and western elements of graffiti.