The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Shozo Shimamoto’s Big Messes *

* (restored)


‘Born in Osaka, Japan in 1928, Shozo Shimamoto is a very influential member of the famous Gutai Group, formed in 1954 by other well-known figures such as Yoshihara Jiro, Kanayama Akira, Murakami Saburo and Shiraga Kazuo, in the Kansai region.

‘A forerunner of European movements of the 1950s, Shimamoto conceived a type of action painting or happening. His performances go beyond the limits of the usual spaces reserved for art and directly address the audience-participant. The characteristics of his work use a combination of material-color and sound. A famous work from 1956 – he threw paint-filled bottles on to the canvas to the accompaniment of cannon shots – was also later presented at the 1993 Venice Art Biennial.

‘In 1992 he presided over an association of artists with handicaps. In 1994 he was invited to the exhibition, “Japanese Art After 1945: Scream Against the Sky” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York at which the curator Alexandra Monroe discovered that Shimamoto’s “holes” dated to 1950, igniting the Fontana-Shimamoto controversy.

‘In 1996 he was considered among the candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize because of his pacifist activities. In 1998 he was chosen – together with Pollock, John Cage and Lucio Fontana – as one of the four greatest post-war artists in the world for an exhibition at MOCA in America. In 1999 he was again invited to the Venice Biennial of Art at the urging of David Bowie and Yoko Ono. New York Times art critic Roberta Smith has noted him as one of the most daring and independent experimentalists of the postwar international art scene in the 1950s.

‘Shozo Shimamoto’s action painting works are created by filling bottles with paint — or, as he prefers to call them, dyeing substances — and hurling them at various types and sizes of canvas, objects, and sometimes people, all of which are never touched by the artist. As in many Gutai works, the artist’s control over the work is limited, mediated by the arbitrariness of throwing the liquids and thus by pure chance.’ — Berengo Gallery


In action



Shozo Shimamoto Official Website
The Official Gutai Site
Association Shozo Shimamoto
‘From Art to Network: Shozo Shimamoto’s Radical Attempts’
Shozo Shimamoto interviewed @ Diatxt
Shozo Shimamoto page @ Facebook
Books on or by Shozo Shimamoto


Reenactment of a 1955 Shimamoto work


Aimed to banish the Paintbrush
by Shozo Shimamoto (1957)

People usually think that colors and paintbrushes are necessary to paint. Till now a form of painting deprived of these two elements has never existed. In fact paintings, paintbrushes and colors have been always considered tightly linked one to the other. In spite of that, their relationship is not so pacific and quiet.

Dyeing substances have usually been subordinated to the paintbrush’s existence. And then the dyes’ course is no more than the story of a long challenge between them and the paintbrush itself. This story of paintbrushes and colors begins at the same starting point. When paintbrushes and dyeing substances began to be used, tones were not considered by artists as virtually necessary.

When I began using dyeing substances, I knew nothing about the paintbrushes employed during Renaissance, but I have always been sure that everywhere in the world the paintbrush is considered uniquely necessary to express color, depriving dyeing substances of their power and causing them to become the brush’s slave with the goal of creating colors for which the dyeing substances are no more than a tool. But just as a line without thickness does not exist, a color without its matter does not become concrete. In every situation and place, dyeing substances offer resistance to the paintbrush. And whoever the painting’s author is, whether Rembrandt, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Utrillo or somebody else, they will be always clear through the technique that the picture has undergone.

Romantic artistic production or the Surrealist one show how a powerful and active paintbrush can be used to capture dyeing material and subject it to the author’s narrative intent. But, although their results were magnificent, their relationship with coloring substances had not changed with respect to the past experiences already mentioned. Today, on the other hand, we don’t want to use dyeing materials quality by distorting them. I just said it: a color without matter does not exist. I think the first thing to do is to free color from the paintbrush. If you do not throw away the paintbrush when creating something there is no way to bring the dyes themselves into existence.

To begin, you can use whatsoever kind of tool: instead of paintbrushes you can use your bare hands or a paint scraper. Then you can continue using objects, used also by Gutai members such as watering cans, umbrellas, vibrators, abaci, skates, toys, feet, weapons, and others. And in Gutai performances it is also possible that a paintbrush will appear again. In fact, in our innovative representations, something can also come from past. But paintbrushes must be used, now, not to kill dyeing matters’ quality but to make them more vivid.


Letter to Jackson Pollock


Five paintings/actions

Palazzo Ducale, Genova 2008

Espace Felissimo, Kobe (2007)

Ladonia Biennial (excerpt, 2009)

嶋本昭三 (excerpt, 2007)

Heinaku, Japan (1996)




p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Yeah, I’m not sure. It isn’t really tempting me. ** GoodKeaton, That could be a problem. Or a form of enlightenment? Miami has a shit ton of escorts. To judge by the internet. I, of course, heartily approve of your plan to knock the rough thing out and then go wise on it. ** Damien Ark, Hi, Damien. No, your comment didn’t frustrate me. It made me think. I went to a listening session event for ‘Life Metal’ a couple of weeks ago. I think it’s pretty much my favourite Sunn0))) LP so far. It’s super rich and serious and complicated and really tough. Stephen said they’ve never worked harder and more intricately on an album before, it really shows and pays off. I think it’s great. I’m good, and you too, I hope, as well. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Well, Bret’s book is causing the noisy fuss it intended, and it’s guaranteed to leap onto the Best Seller Lists, so I think maybe it and his current thing tires you, but it’s proving not to be all that tired really? You know as much as I do about the authenticity of the comments, and about the profiles texts as well. Tel Aviv gets its fair amount of tourists from the US and elsewhere, and escorts’ clientele is very often composed largely of travellers, so I think he probably does okay, if he’s real. Agreed about that Kierkegaardian escort. What a pip. ** Sypha, When I lived in the States, I was pretty on top of US pop culture phenoms when they happened, but it’s not as easy or even somehow as much of a draw over here. I still haven’t even watched the recent ‘Twin Peaks’. Having talked with Bret recently via and around being on his podcast, I don’t think he has retired from novel writing. He said he was thinking about a new one. ** Corey Heiferman, Thanks, Corey. Yeah, it’s truly shocking. And it’s kind of shocking that it is so shocking. People here are very devastated. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. They’re showing photos of Notre Dame’s insides this morning, and, on the one hand, I’m surprised it’s as intact as it is, but, yes, it’s very destroyed. ** Misanthrope, The actual building is still there. The insides are a shell and torn up. But, yeah, it’s going to be decades before whatever it becomes inside is accessible again. The Pistols and PiL, and The Smiths for that matter, will easily survive some people’s current insistence that those bands’ makers’ opinions conform to their own personal standards and demands. ** Bill, Hi, Bill. Thanks, yeah, a curious and curiously trolled bunch this month. Thanks for looking to be with ‘The Guitarists’. Enjoy your short trip. ** Okay. Someone who is writing their thesis partly about Shozo Shimamoto asked me if I would restore this old, defunct post, and I was happy to do that. I hope others of you find it interesting. See you tomorrow.


  1. Love the post. I’ve been into Happening (?) lately for some reason, which I couldn’t predict before…What are you learning from this artist? Love the artist. Should look into it more. Thank you! How are you, Dennis? How is new film work going? Sorry for my long absence, I’m here though right now… I missed you. Loved your new gif fiction! Something about it feels focused yet very spacious.

  2. Isaac Chotiner’s New Yorker interview with Ellis and Andrea Long Chu’s Bookforum review were devastating burns, but right after the Chotiner interview was published, Ellis was one of the top trending topics on Twitter. Personally, I have zero intention of reading the book unless Gay City News assigns me a review, and I don’t know that the outrage it’s generated on social media will translate into sales. Conservatives might think “wow, all those liberals were triggered by WHITE, so it really must have something devastating to say,” but Chotiner’s interview revealed that Ellis wrote a book about politics, despite admitting he doesn’t know anything about it. Why would I want to read that or think that’s likely to lead to insightful analysis?

    Tonight, the video Q&A with Kamran Heidari will take place, but there are some technological snafus to work out, due to the Iranian government’s restrictions on the Internet slowing down the connections of everyone in the country.

  3. Havent been to Miami. Everybody in Florida hates Miami. Brennt Paris? Is that an escort? Paris burns again. I have spent a good amount of time in Paris and alone in the night on the streets in Paris and there are few places where you can feel it’s evil to me. I got in a fight with my ex in the crypt of Notre Dame and when I was inside the cathedral, I could not see anything except for darkness, black walls, some chairs, and creepily stylized golden statue of Joan of Arc. I am a Christian and a reformed Catholic. I do not feel safe at Notre Dame. The Madeline is the only church in Paris that does not feel Satanic to me. The hill loves fire and ghosts and that sewer of an island is possibly worse. Notre Dame and French Gothic is probably the miracle of architecture to me. The crown of thorns was saved they say. I worry about the glass such a wonderful thing. I mourn the scar and pray for the sadness of the French people and the world. Manic Monday, a fig tree pissed Jesus off so he made it wither and die. Big hug sloppy bottoms and mouths love to Paris. This novel is about ready to lose its virginity

  4. Ha. Saw some of his art when I was a teen at the Fort Worth Museum in Texas long ago. // And the new Sunn is in my car, along with Beth Gibbons singing for Gorecki’s Symphony no. 3, which came out this year as well (DVD comes with it too). Definitely check that out too! Lots of great music this year, especially ambient stuff. The new Robert Rich, Celer, Kyle Bobby Dunn, Michael Pisaro, some new Bioulard, Tuluum Shimmering, etc. One of the posters on this blog, James Nulick, is having a new book come out soon, which I’m excited for. Are you? 😛 Peace!

  5. Hey Dennis,

    I suppose there have been some pop culture trends that I’ve followed over the years. THE MATRIX films spring to mind… and the LORD OF THE RINGS films… oh, and the Grand Theft Auto games, though I kind of lost interest in that series long ago (never even played GTA V). Any particular reason why you haven’t seen the 3rd season of TWIN PEAKS yet?

    We only got 2 copies of Ellis’ book WHITE in at work yesterday. I guess long gone are the days of Ellis’ books being strict-on-sale, ha ha. Anyway I set one aside and will probably buy it tonight, though I can’t start it until I complete the new Stephen R. Donaldson fantasy novel that also came out recently. It’s weird, suddenly a lot of my favorite writers all have books out at the same time!

    Yesterday I got my HC author copies of THE MAN WHO MURDERED HIS MUSE, that chapbook of mine that was published by Eibonvale. It’s not even 50 pages long… who says I can’t write short books? 😉 But now I’m up to 2 books published this year, which has me feeling like James Patterson, ha ha.

  6. Corey Heiferman

    April 16, 2019 at 10:39 pm

    This was perfect after a long day. The whole anti-paintbrush philosophy got me thinking of how my documentary subject uses ink pens so it sometimes looks like he’s painting and sometimes like he’s drawing. Also reminded me of how much I love crushing rocks with a sledgehammer. Never before thought of art as a pretext for doing that.

  7. Dennis, The neat thing about this work is that it’s also…FUN.

    And I forgot to say yesterday that a lot of the profiles and the comments on them made me laugh. So were out and out hilarious.

    As we’ve discussed before -and as I’ve pointed out before- I welcome different points of view/arguments from mine. The first thing I do (and this is assuming it’s not some sort of really crazy over the top racist or whatever type of argument coming from the other person) is go, “Is this true? Is this right?” And then I think about it. And then I’m, “Let me put myself in that person’s shoes for a sec and see things from his/her perspective.” In the end, I might change my mind. I might not change my mind but I’ll have a different way of looking at something. At worst, I’ll just be like, “Yeah, he’s an all right guy, heart’s in the right place, we just disagree on this.”

    IOW, with Bret, an older person can be all, “Get off my lawn, you whippersnappers,” and still be an all right guy.

    I find that many people, when pressed about the things they espouse, especially when they seem a bit looney, soften up a bit and are like, “Well, I didn’t mean it that literally or to that extreme,” and then start discussing things with more nuance and understanding.

    I don’t know, I guess I prefer discourse -and getting all the opinions out there- to taking sides and not budging and refusing to think things through. Staying bottled up or in your comfort zone prevents that.

    Almost half done with Mark’s book. It’s really good. I’m enjoying it a lot.

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