Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN # 116: These Feet Are Made for Painting

shiraga at whitestone

Kazuo Shiraga: ‘Kocho’ (Butterfly), 2003 – 45.5 x 37.9cm

The Japanese Gutai movement is now seen, not as a late-to-the-party oriental imitation of abstract expressionism, but as a seminal conjunction of painting, performance and the concrete assertion of freedom in the aftermath of Japan’s disastrous war.

Its market star is Kazuo Shiraga (1924-2008), and his signature move was to paint with his feet by swinging over the canvas on a rope. The just-finished Masterpiece Fair had four examples, and there’s no denying their persuasive energy. So when I heard that the soon-to-retire American-Irish tap star Michael Flatley was showing paintings made by dancing on the canvas (to 18th July by appointment at 12 Hay Hill Club) I wondered whether he admired Shiraga. Indeed he does. And while he may not have been first, the logic for Flatley’s production method is appealingly different and clear. I was sympathetic, then, and some of the paintings evoke his movement to colourful effect, though he needs a harsher edit. Still, Flatley’s paintings (see have sold at auction for up to £70,000, much the same as Shiraga was fetching five years ago, before a recent surge in interest raised his prices – Flatley-sized examples were around £300,000 at the Fair. It will be interesting to see whether that differential increases as Flatley’s dance celebrity recedes, or reduces as he does most of his dancing on canvas…

flatley the power
Michael Flatley: ‘The Power’- acrylic on marley, 150 x 150cm

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

About Paul Carey-Kent

Art critic and curator, based near Southampton. I write most regularly for Art Monthly, Frieze, Elephant, State, Photomonitor... and, of course, FAD.