The Silence series comes out of my journey to write the "Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering" book (InterVarsity Press) that will be released May, 2016, prior to Martin Scorsese's next film, "Silence." These works explore the extension of the recent Qu4rtets project, the earlier Junan Passion Panel series, and the installation series The Resurrection (collection of Yokohama Museum of Art).
In writing about Shusaku Endo's post-war masterpiece "Silence," I've begun to connect the aesthetics of 17th century Japan to the ensuing 250 years of trauma and persecution of Christians in Japan. The Silence series is to explore the hidden dimensions of beauty, a beauty born of sacrifice and trauma.
"Golden Sea is a retrospective monograph of my career, and yet it is also about one painting...Golden Sea also borrows its gold transfer technique from my mentor and professor Matazo Kayama (1927-2004), whose lineage of Rimpa tradition I carry with me even though I am an American working in New York City and Princeton...It was Kayama-sensei who imbued in me the 'third color' of gold and silver particularly the idea that Japanese metal leafs, because they are so thin, can be transferred like monotypes. The 'secret ingredient' behind the Golden Sea transfer of gold is a Japanese hand woven silk which is made in a strict traditional manner but is no longer produced today. Therefore, Golden Sea is a homage to and a lament for dying traditions, as well as an expression of the sublimity inherent in precious materials."
from Golden Sea monograph, Introduction
Walking on Water images were painted in the new Princeton studio. They were meant as an elegy to victims to 3/11 tsunami. As I attempted to finish the last of the three "Walking on Water - Banquo's Dream," Superstorm Sandy hit, wiping some fifty works at Dillon Gallery. Thus, the process of painting have now become, literally, a way to "walk on water."
Olana series began as my homage to Hudson River painter Fredric Church, after visiting the historic Olana estate in upstate New York. This summer the work was honored to be exhibited there at Olana Historic Site along with the work of Marina Abramovic, Carolyn Marks Blackwood, R.O. Blechman, DJ Spooky and Annie Leibovitz.
These images are the frontispieces to a commission by Crossway publishing for the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. These images will be printed by Rhino Press in New York City, to be released by Dillon Gallery starting later in April, 2011 as a limited edition (100) of 32x26" prints, hand touched by me with gold and platinum. Please contact Dillon Gallery for more information.
I wrote for the Artist's Introduction for the Four Gospels illuminated Bible: From the Book of Kells (Irish, 9th century), to Limburg brothers (Duke of Berry's Book of Hours, 15th century), to William Blake (18-19th century), past centuries have produced magnificent illumined manuscripts based on the Bible. In contrast, the twentieth century saw a void in attempts to integrate the artistic gift with the text of the Bible. In taking on this project, it is my bold and ambitious prayer that this new century will see a revisitation of the illuminated legacy, with the Bible as a source of creative inspiration and artistic expression, in both the East and the West.
These set of works seem proper to categorize them as "Post 9/11" paintings. They reflect my journey with T.S. Eliot, and Dante, to recover my imaginative vision during the aftermath of 9/11/2001, living in ground zero, New York City.
Thanks to my friend, Hiroshi Senju, we hosted a series of art exhibits, performances, and collaborations from November of 2001 to April of 2002. Called TriBeCa Temporary, we wanted to create a "ground zero tea house: a oasis of collaboration for local artists."
My account of TriBeCa Temporary, and post 9/11 thoughts are captured in "The Fallen Towers and the Art of Tea." (later published in Image Journal, and reedited and modified in Refractions: a Journey of Art, Faith and Culture)
I began to use gold, in the leaf form as well as in the powder form, very early on in my studies of Nihonga (literally “Japan-painting”). I was taught as a student that I must use the best materials in order to truly get to know the ancient craft. So, despite the cost involved, my MFA thesis painting (see River Grace) used the best gold and minerals that I could purchase. I wrote in River Grace about the experience of encountering the extravagance of beauty leading to a profound wrestling of faith and art. The three major pieces that I’ve done in the last ten years in New York reveal the consistency (or stubbornness) of my insistence on continuing to use these materials, but with diverse results.
Golden Fire develops this theme further. Taking cues from Dante’s Divine Comedy, this piece focuses on the theme of fire, particularly significant in our post 9-11 reality. I wanted to depict gold rising in the fire of destruction, and, at the same time, letting the surface also speak of the purifying power of fire.
My latest painting, Charis, further emphasizes the Golden Fire language. In homage to de Kooning, gold moves in a dispersed, gestured movement. Critic Clement Greenberg did not approve of De Kooning’s paintings as pure abstraction since de Kooning did not deny the “essential flatness of a painted space.”1 I am interested in the de Kooning that failed to fulfill Greenbergian definition of abstraction. My interest in abstraction is in the essentiation of reality, which, I believe, de Kooning was interested in as well. In that search, I became interested in creating space that is both flat and spatial at the same time. Gold is that paradox: it creates space (by being semi-transparent) and remains flat (by being mirror-like) at the same time. Perhaps the only way that an “essential flatness” can be full of created space is by using gold.
 Calvin Tomkins, Off the Wall, Penguin Books, Pg. 167
Fujimura is one of those rare and superior abstract painters whose visual language seems as natural, inevitable, and uncontrived as his own speaking voice. His paintings speak of his personality like the surface of a pool expressing the motion of a deep-gliding swimmer. The artist who emerges in these paintings is a man of spiritual depth and impeccable taste, and the visual language he speaks is enchanting.
Makoto Fujimura's large scale works have been commissioned by major public spaces such as CNN/Time Warner building (Oxford House) in Taikoo Place, Hong Kong, Kikkoman Corporation in Tokyo, The Plumed Horse Restaurant in Saratoga, CA., Rumson Capital in Red Bank, New Jersey, New Haven Presterian Church in Connecticut, DAMDACO headquarters in Kansas City, as well as many private homes.
I've been involved in numerous collaborations, most notably with avant-garde composer and musician Susie Ibarra. Plywood Film's documentary "Ibarra & Fujimura: Live in New York" captures three live collaborations, leading up to Ibarra inviting Fujimura to paint live on stage at Carnegie Hall.
Water Flames series followed Four Quartets in 2005, and was exhibited at Sara Tecchia Roma in Chelsea, and Katzen Art Museum in Washington D.C. Water Flames took Dante's "The Divine Comedy" as an inspiration, and drawing from the mystical tradition that states that the flames of judgment is in one accord with flames of sanctification.
From "Twin Rivers of Tamagawa," (collection of Tokyo University of Art museum) which was my Master's of Fine Arts Thesis painting to Aijo (Compassionate Love) (collection of Tokyo Contemporary Museum of Art), many of my works are in fine museums throughout Japan. I am grateful for the early supportors, collectors that began to journey with me even as a graduate student, that made my journey sustainable.
Splendor of the Medium (2004) comprised several abstract works relying on the refractive properties of the layers of minerals Fujimura uses. Philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff, who wrote the catalogue essay, stated that the paintings "present the repose of harmony and reconciliation within this world." Exhibited at Kristen Frederickson Contemporary Art a few blocks from Ground Zero, New York City, the paintings and installations mediated the complex reality of an artist living and working in the "splintered condition of culture as a kaleidoscope of common struggles"
After 9/11/01, I began a series of paintings based on T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets. A reviewer wrote:
While 'The Wasteland' is considered by many to be the greatest poem of the twentieth century, for Fujimura 'Four Quartets' achieves an even clearer focus on the fundamental questions of art and literature, among them sacrifice, mystery, intuitive response and the eloquence of materiality...
There is a component of these paintings that cannot be seen except by the naked eye: photographic representation is an inadequate translation, perhaps more for these works than most art. As the eye travels from one moment of the painting to another - from a glistening river of blue to teardrops of green, streaks of vermilion to a shimmering layer of gold leaf falling perilously across the surface - there is an element of utter abstraction and peace that belies the intense training and experience required to produce these paintings.
Images of Grace began in 1996, leading to the second solo exhibit at Dillon Gallery (then in SoHo on West Broadway) in 1997. "Grace" (Greek word "Charis") is a word has been a catalyst for many of Fujimura's paintings. Fujimura stated at an artist talk lecture at Dillon Gallery, "Art mirrors this struggle and captures the process of letting go. Every stroke pushes the painting to sacrifice itself: every creative act destroys something previously built. Imagination reveals not new vistas but revelations of reality behind reality. All art points to a transaction between reality of the seen and reality of the unseen."
The second solo exhibit at Dillon Gallery in 1999 was an exhibit called "Hours," inspired by the Book of Hours, medieval devotional book of prayer.
Grace is the thread that connects the reality of the seen and the unseen.