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
I was delighted to exhibit works from his Soliloquies exhibit at Bucknell University (May 21 to June 25th.) Baylor University (October 19 to November 13) exhibit is coming up. See Press Release
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.
The Olana series began in 2007, as I was inspired by my visit to Olana, the former estate of the Hudson River Painter Fredrick Church, in upstate New York. I consider this series to be my homage to Hudson River painters.
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.
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."
Grace is the thread that connects the reality of the seen and the unseen.