Numerous contorted hands rise up to form a wave that references the iconic “Great Wave” woodblock print by Hokusai. This powerful image, created by artist Keisuke Yamaguchi, evokes the events of March 11, 2011. Yamaguchi goes by the name OZ (尾頭), which translates as head to tail. But it’s a phrase the means ‘entirety,’ or ‘from beginning to end,’ and it’s helpful in understanding the artist, who was born and raised in the mountainous region of Nagano prefecture.
His work is inherently connected to ancient concepts of Shintoism but he uses Japan’s rich history of art and culture, not as a crutch, but as a key to unlocking unique and subtle forms of contemporary Japanese art.
“Historically the Japanese believed that there existed many gods that inhabited everything around us, holding the ability to hit us with fearful awe-inspiring power,” says OZ. “Similar to water, they have no real concrete form.” OZ summons these gods of nature – a byproduct of his youth spent in the mountains – in creating a diverse body of work that is both surreal and abstract. His diversity is apparent in the fact that he’s been commissioned by several Shinto shrines to recreate large ema paintings that date back hundreds of years, while also conducting live painting performances, commissioned street art and large murals.
It’s this diversity, along with many other factors, that contributed to OZ being selected as the winner of the inaugural Ronin | Globus Artist-in-Residence Program. As a media partner and judge, Spoon & Tamago is incredibly excited for OZ, who will be flown to NYC where he will stay at Globus Washitsu for 2 weeks creating new work that will be displayed in an exhibition opening June 23. The theme for the show, titled “Contemporary Talents of Japan,” will be “The Great Wave” as the exhibition coincides with the 5th anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Japan Society’s Japan Earthquake Relief Fund.