“World Citizens with the White Boxes”

Installation view from “World Citizens with the White Boxes” at Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, 2008 © Toru Kuwakubo

Toru Kuwakubo has started his career as an artist in a theatrical manner, that is to invent in himself a fictitious painter. He tried to play a role, how a proper painter should act like, in the way he imagined; like painting on the seashore using an easel as the Impressionists; performing to bind a painting on his back as a vagabond painter trying to sell his painting on the road. What he, as an acted artist, often painted was the sea.
The painting style to mount thick layer of paint, without mixing thinning oil, obviously reminds one of Van Gogh painting rather than a contemporary art piece. So the work is a result of the Impressionist technique that is on its way to be called a classic, and the present mindscape of the artist’s put together in one. His earlier paintings owe to his imaginary story, like people on the beach digging a hole. There is one of a flower floating on the surface of the ocean painted in romanticism. Recently he focuses more on the form and color of the motif, in a painting with objects laid out on the beach as if everything in his mind was displayed.
We will be showing large paintings of the seashore, some small landscapes and some portraits by the artist who says “Recently, everything I see seem like the painted motifs”. The title of the show “World Citizens with the White Boxes” comes from his day dream that he had during his stay in Europe; he saw sculptural female figures going up the escalator although they actually were humans. The idea was to suppose ‘what if all humans were sculptures with white pedestals’.
Please come see the contemporary vision of an artist, who has seen Europe in the eyes of a Japanese oil painter from the 20th Century.

Artist Profile

Toru Kuwakubo

Toru Kuwakubo was born in Kanagawa, Japan in 1978. He graduated from the Department of Painting, Oil Painting Course at Tama Art University in 2002. He currently lives and works in Kanagawa.

Kuwakubo started his artistic practice with a theatrical approach, finding the figure of an imaginary painter within himself as a means to explore contemporary art through the medium of painting. His unique expressions created by a classical technique of layering thick oil paint to depict contemporary imagined sceneries reminiscent of the work of Van Gogh, have received acclaim both internationally and within Japan.

The “Calendar Series,” which he started producing in 2014, depicting the respective lives of great masters within art history upon a single canvas, was finally completed in 2020. In the “Calendar Series,” prominent painters selected by Kuwakubo, such as Munch, Van Gogh, and Modigliani, are each assigned a month in the calendar, and the works, studios, and lives of these artists are expressed as spectacular spaces of alternate dimension through manner of Kuwakubo’s own interpretation, serving as an ultimate homage that gives rise to a certain resonance that transcends both time and space.

He has held solo exhibitions in numerous locations throughout the world including New York, London, Copenhagen, Singapore, Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo. Major group exhibitions include “Site: Place of Memories, Spaces with Potential” (Hiroshima MOCA, Hiroshima, 2013), “Tokyo Painting II | Mindscape between interior and exterior” (Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo, 2013), “Artist File 2010: The NACT Annual Show of Contemporary Art” (The National Art Center, Tokyo, 2010) and “Tokyo Wonder Wall” (Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, 2003).

Kuwakubo won First Prize at the 3rd D-Art Biennale (2013), VOCA Encouragement Prize sponsored by The Ueno Royal Museum (2012), the 3rd Koji Kinutani Prize by the Mainichi Newspaper (2011) and the Tokyo Wonder Wall Award sponsored by Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (2002).
His works are included in numerous public collections including JAPIGOZZI Collection, the DAI-ICHI LIFE Insurance Company, Ryutaro Takahashi Collection, Takamatsu City Museum of Art, Taguchi Art Collection and Toyota Art Collection.

  • Installation view from "World Citizens with the White Boxes" at Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, 2008 © Toru Kuwakubo
  • Installation view from "World Citizens with the White Boxes" at Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, 2008 © Toru Kuwakubo