On Other Surfaces│6│

Table of Contents

Japanese modern art developed by washing its hands of religion. This was also the aim of modern art from the West, which was Japan’s model for its modernization. However, other Asian countries which, like Japan, modernized later than the West, did not necessarily modernize by cutting ties with their gods as did Japan. For example, in countries such as India and the Philippines, religious and spiritual paintings were created by using modern techniques adopted from the West.
Tenshin Okakura, a key figure in directing the modernization of Japanese art, corresponded with the religious figures and artists of India’s Bengal School at the beginning of the twentieth century. In turn, Indian artists influenced by Okakura used techniques learned from Japanese artists to create new religious paintings. However, after Okakura’s death, Japanese art lost its connection with India.
In this essay, Kurose explores K. G. Subramanyan, a prominent Indian artist and descendant of the Bengal School whose works appeared in documenta 14. By looking at the history of Subramanyan’s paintings, Kurose traces a modernization process in Indian art that differs from that in Japan. Kurose also takes up the case of Buddhist-themed paintings made in the 1920s by the Japanese surrealist artist Harue Koga. Using these, Kurose analyzes how the religious and spiritual elements, which appeared in the course of the modernization of Japanese art, have come to be erased.