Katsura Funakoshi

Born 1951, Morioka City, Japan

Lives in Tokyo, Japan

Staying in the Water

1991

Carved and painted camphor wood and shaped marble eyes with paint

To make sculpture not art but a living thing

– Katsura Funakoshi

In The Day I Go to the Forest, a catalogue of Katsura Funakoshi’s work, essayist Akira Öoka gives us three rather fertile phrases about the artist’s sculptures: A sense of time immemorial; A melancholy concealed within tranquility; An airy, delicately humorous, kinky eroticism. His sculptures’ significance is greatest in their seeming lack of a particular message and their focus on a sense of being. These wooden figures exist as they are in an obvious, if imagined, contentment.  His work has a gentle silence and knowing quality approaching a sort of visual poetry. Indeed, titles of his work read in random order resemble a hi-Ku: Number of words arrived; Number of Words Un-arrived; Staying in the Water; A lunar Eclipse in the Forest.

There is a pervading parallel between Funakoshi, scion of a dominantly Buddhist Japan and Funakoshi, Roman Catholic: the gentleness of Zen Buddhism linked through a shared focus on simplicity, love, discipline and mysticism, to Christian asceticism.  He has seamlessly linked east and west in a unique fusion.  Living in London for a year and travelling in Western Europe, He admired the life-like polychrome sculptures that populate baroque churches and the heavy carvings done for the great medieval churches.  Funakoshi’s first wood sculptures were of Madonna’s and Catholic saints but he remains sensitive to the aesthetic traditions of Japanese wood carving and Buddhist Kamakura sculptors. Kamakura were often heroic representations of great men, hollow sculptures with inset eyes of jewels that could represent authority, power, great age, tenderness or serenity.  Like the Kamakura, Funakoshi’s figures are often portraits but like many Christian carvings they are also archetypes, not of the divine but of what he calls ‘people of our time.’ The figures are broad in their appeal as they appear, ethnically, religiously and socially vague.  In fact, one reason he carves from blocks of camphorwood is because he feels its color resembles both Asian and Caucasian flesh.  His sculptures seem almost totally unencumbered by content imposed by politics, religion or race, and often, gender and despite their physical solidity they emanate an intangible lightness.

DR 1809

2006

Pencil and ink

A Lunar Eclipse in the Forest

2006

Carved and painted camphor wood and shaped marble eyes with paint

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