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and his artistic challenge, namely: 'TO THINK WHILE PAINTING and PAINT WHILE THINKING'

From 23rd September to 12th November 2010 | Osart Gallery, Milan

What comes to my mind looking at an Arakawa’s painting? The mind."This is how the great italian writer Italo Calvino introduces Arakawa's artistic challenge, which  is TO PAINT WHILE THINKING and THINK WHILE PAINTING. Concluding his narrative Calvino underlines the aesthetic  power and pleasure the artist is capable of communicating to the viewer, since in his opinion: “...the mind can’t have another colour than the one of Arakawa’s works.

Shusaku Arakawa’s life (1936 – 18 May 2010) begins,continues and ends following the same creative pattern: art works as a clarification and visualization of those principles that are able to transform utopias in facts; even when at first sight they may appear antithetical to every tangible reality.

The artists death, which occured while he was still working, together with his wife and muse Madeline Gins, on the idea of defying ageing and death through paintings and later through related architectural projects, is a proof of it. 

In occasion of the exhibition held at Osart Gallery in Milan, Andrea Sirio Ortolani has gathered a selection of an extremely rare group of paintings, executed between 1961 and 1973. The works represent a perfect example of Arakawa's everlasting ability of transforming ideas into images through the use of everchanging views, plays and puns. 

This group of extraordinary canvases constitutes a challenge to the anathem spelt at that time, by some, against the medium of painting.

To the supporters of this theory, but not to Calvino nor us, painting was seen as an inappropriate activity, the exact opposite of thinking and thus was regarded as a merely commercial, decorative and obsolete action.  

The beauty and intelligence of these works demonstrate the contrary with urgency, style, and a tightrope ability to surprise and involve us. Therefore we find ourselves involved in a multitude of verbal and visual games, of riddles, enigmas, paradoxes, alchemies and diagrams, that Arakawa is able to weave  together in order to develop and stimulate our mental gaze. He is one of the first artists, who constantly requires the participation and the intelligent collaboration of the spectators. Anyone who believes that art also functions as a propaedeutic for life and for a challenging and optimistic work, veined of irony, will find here an unexhausted and inexhaustible  source of motivating forces and surprises. A global success followed, focusing the attention towards Arakawa and igniting the recognition by the most important museums of the world, as  the Palais des Beaux-Arts of Bruxelles, the Stedelijk van Abben Museum of Eindhoven, the MoMa of New York, the Seibu Museum of Tokyo and the National Museum of Osaka, besides presences at Venice Biennial and at Documenta of Kassel. The 1997 anthology at the Guggenheim Museum in New York “Reversibile Destiny: we have decided not to die” enclosed both his earlier conceptual paintings and his more recent architectural projects, dealing with the search of immortality.

Arakawa therefore has been also very much appreciated and studied by philosophers, writers and great intellectuals like Calvino and Hans-Georg Gadamer, who  used to refer to the artists work quoting the poet Paul Celan: “There are songs to sing beyond the human”.

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