May 1, 2010


The Japanese culture had always been a mixture of tradition and modernity. However modernity in Japan had been subjected to rapid change due to Japan’s tryst with technological changes. The fast pace has often created immense tension and psychological pressure among the Japanese people particularly the young. The result of this is the tendency to escape into fantasy worlds created in the cyber-space.

Takashi Murakami's Superflat work inspired by Otaku imagery

Japanses youth are addicted to the internet and the fantasy world of anime and Manga comics. This typical aspect of Japanese culture has a special name : Otaku.
In the late 1990s, Takashi Murakami developed this idea into a new art genre called Superflat. Takashi Murakami is one of the few artists who in today’s world have thought of creating a new genre of art. It took some time, for the idea to seep in as it happens in case of most new genres. But by the beginning of the new century, Superflat has become an art movement.

Superflat art genre has certain specific features. Murakami emphasizes its superficial quality. “Superflat world has no depth, no "camera eye", no perspective”. That is to say that Superflat is only one-dimensional and does not use depth as in realism. The colours are mostly flat, the subjects are arranged in imaginary fashion.

Kage-e Japansese Visual Art form shows use of flat colours that give perspective and dimensional values.

To a certain extent, this use of imaginary depth, and created perspective is also found in another new genre of art, now very popular in South Asia: Pseudorealism. But while Pseudorealism’s primary aim is to replace reality with a created one, the aim of Superflat is to abandon reality, even the notion of it, altogether. It is typically grounded in Japanese youth culture.

Superflat Art movement has today today many adherents and most of these artists are quite young, born in the seventies. Chio Aoshima, Aya Takano, Koji Morimoto are some of the better known exponents of this form of art.

Pseudorealist Art Work coming from India shows use of flat colours as in Kage-e, Otaku or Superflat works. But here the dimensions remain real

However it would be fallacious to proclaim Superflat as the sole representative of Otaku in the Fine Arts world. Artists like Kenjo Yanobe, who stand outsdie the Superfalt agroup do have a standing of their own. The post war Gutai Group artists still continue to sreate fascinating art.

There is also a commonality between Gutai and Superflat. The Gutai artists tried to capture the ethos of a war torn Japan, and had made their manifesto to see beauty in things that are devasted.

Japan has built herself again, but in these times of progress, the society is not all that happy. The young still needs a huge fantasy-based cyberspace to escape from reality. In a way the Superflat thus also captures the ethose of something that is not really the positive.

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