REIJIRO KUDO       工藤 礼二郎

REIJIRO KUDO – Layer and Transparent layer

TANIGAWA   Atsushi
Philosopherof Aesthetic

  We might be able to define that the abstract painting means that anything doesn’t exist pointed by name over the painting. We can say that this is the painting what we can’t reacknowledge any objects we can see in this world over the picture. On the other hand, it is also the characteristic of the abstract paintings to look at some figurative with motility like lines, belts, points, forms, or vortex, flow, dripping, bounce and undulation. That is why we have been introducing the distinction between the “cool abstract” which is the quiet abstract with the geometric figurative and the “hot abstract which is the expressive abstract with motility of brush stroke and touch. Of course”, it doesn’t mean that all abstract paintings are categorized in the dualistic theory. In facing on the various and colorful works by abstract painters in the exhibition -Adventure on surface- which we organized, we can find some paintings imaging this dualism. Although at the same time we will feel that this simple distinction has been expired in general.

  The works of REIJIRO KUDO are notable existence in this means.His works show us just black or white picture, and it doesn’t let us feel not only geometric figurativeness but also any kind of expressive motility, It is amazing that the existence of picture which we should say ascetic.

  His works remind me those of Malevich immediately. Through his works like Black Square a black square on white, and  White on White a white square superimposed diagonally on white ground, he denied the art history  which is based on realism, representation and concreteness. That was the movement of suprematism returning to the drawing-board in 1910. Although he aimed to “nothingness”or “desert” fulling with “sense” of non-realism, finally he returned to the figurative painting as he couldn’t stand the barrenness in the 20s, and then vanished from the world of art history. Even if Malevich who devoted himself to Theosophy tried to look at the theosophical light in the white ‘nothingness’, this white or black is white or black just we are expecting. In the case of  White on White , the color of white of ground and square is different, and the figurative is recognized, but there is no more meaning in those two white colors.

  Although works of KUDO look like just black or white overall, they are totally different with works by Malevich. Let’s look at the black surface of his work attentively. We will find that the surface looking like monochrome is the phenomenon of black which is painted carefully with the various color layer without a trace of brushstroke and brush touch. If I adapt his own words, the black color is brought by the color layer and the transparent layer. It is based on the three primary colors, in other words, the theory of colors that the mixture of all colors produces the color closely near to grey or black. He doesn’t reveal what kind of color and medium he uses. But I presume that his delicate and subtle illusions by color layers and transparent layers are brought by oil paint, and also it is the treasure of his ascetic work. When we say illusion, it means that black picture doesn’t come to just black, and paradoxically it brings us the sense that there is a slight difference of colors. The excellent illusion like the light in the dark occasionally emerges from this sense.

  We could image “Color field Painting” that is named by Greenberg, too. The work by Barnette Newman has a “color field” on both side of zip on his large picture.

This color field is composed by not uniform color but also subtle and careful color layers, meanwhile the meaning of his work is just in the combination of a zip and a color field. He doesn’t invest the meaning just in the color field. It is not necessarily incorrect to categorize Kudo’s works in color field paintings reminding works by Mark Rothko, although it is not enough to categorize in a same way because of his creation and process including the ideological background.

  How about Ad Reinhardt who appeared with so-called “black painting” in 1960’s.

His painting looks like a minimal and monochromatic work denying any colors as same as Kudo’s works, but we can comprehend that it is divided in several color fields geometrically by looking at it attentively. This is the effect of subtle layer and transparent layer by unique painter who started from cubism. His careful field structure is very similar with the work by KUDO, but I can’t treat equally them as long as looking at the color contrast or the color division over the matier covered skillfully.

  The “black” works (I call them black for convenience.) painted by KUDO over many years got as close as possible to black by blending colors, and at the same time we might say there is the best part of his works in creating the illusions from which the colors latent in black appear slightly. We can also say that asceticism of works and sensuality of creation are two sides of the same coins.

  Kudo has practiced painting “white” in the same method with “black” recent years. But I wonder if it is possible to make layer and transparent layer in “white”. It is possible to put white paint on white. But when we try to adopt the difference of colors a little bit, we can’t avoid using other colors. The white color will be dull even if we use a painting medium subtlety. In fact, the painter states that he changed oil paint to acrylic paint, since he noticed that “white” works were changed to yellow soon after painting.  And at the same time, he said that he uses not only brushes but also other tools like airbrush and spray gun. However, he will not be able to solve this problem by the difference of oil paint and acrylic paint or tools to use.

  In mixing the three primary colors of light, white light appears, and in mixing three primary colors of paint, it infinitely closes to black. That’s why the white as light will never appear no matter how treat the paint. It is possible to make the layer by superposing white color. We should pay attention to the quotes about color by Wittgenstein who developed the color theory as phenomenology, and he has emphasized in his Remarks on color that the transparency of white is impossible For example, he said that it was possible to be green something transparent but is impossible to be white. If I apply Wittgenstein’s theory to KUDO’s works, I can say that chromatic color has a possibility to be transparency layers, but white has no possibility. It means that white layer doesn’t guarantee the possibility of translucency phenomenon of white.

  KUDO’s “white” works looking like almost monochrome are paradoxically just the track of attempt to take a chance on this possibility. Does the “light” appear from only the “dark”, or can we witness to be created “white light” over the picture? 

Whenever I stand in front of his works, I face in this question.

What light brings
Curator, The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo

“Color is an act of light”, When Goethe wrote it in “Theory of colors”, he insisted that the awareness of color was greatly affected by the movement of eyes of the viewer.

Against Newton who analyzed hue as a refractive index and defined it numerically, in Goethe’s theory, color is recognized in the inner sense of viewer and generated every time.

Goethe wrote “Light exists, therefore eyes exist”, and added the words of an old philosopher in ancient times to it, “If the eyes were not sun-like, how could we see light? If it were not for God’s power inside of us, how could we delight in things divine?” Goethe pointed out that light exists inside of us, therefore outside light could appear. His study attempting to raise a question about the modern rationalism proceeded into the visible world based on light, however it referred to invisible domains as a result, such as spirituality or imagination associated with them.

From the title of this exhibition “Perspective”, I recalled that “light” is something unembodied, in other words, something invisible but visible.


KUDO Reijiro finishes a canvas after enormous process, painting so many layers with all kinds of colors and materials. While keeping the complex luster generated by the volume of colors, the whole canvas converges in one tone, black or white. Mondorian was disturbed by the illusion in his later years, which occurs as long as he paints a plane with brushes. KUDO polishes the surface to level the matiere and doesn’t make material aspects nor illusion occurred. In other words, he aims at the moment when the canvas is turned to be a light itself. His paintings are similar to the motief of “windows” often seen in symbolism paintings, every moments are compressed in one canvas. Despite the monotones, we could see centripetal motion, that is light seems to concentrate in the center of the canvas. When we stand in front of the human-scale-size canvas, we feel as if we are looking into a mirror surrounded by light, which recalls a spirituality in northern Renaissance paintings.

I might say after Goethe, there is a moment when we encounter the inner light.


Light could be a medium, ties visible and invisible things together. And the theme of light asks us, why we could find an invisible field, that is spiritual world there, despite that light is only a material. It contains a question asking the essence of visual arts.

This exhibition provided an important opportunity in terms of impressing me with it.

I hope four artists would brush up their one and only technique and show more brilliant light.

In my sensibility and other’s
HAYAMI  Takashi
art critic

Looking is very mysterious experience. We cover our eyes when we are scared of something in front of us.

Because we are afraid of that the horrible thing may invade our mind if we keep opening our eyes.

If I don’t cover my eyes, some horrible thing, in other words, other person may attack, destroy and loose me.

No problem will happen without looking at it. Looking at the painting, it means that I accept other’s invasion which should be the scary objects, and expect to be reborn after being destroyed. I’m moved and decentralized by looking at painting. It means that I am impressed.

Other’s sensibility invades my sensibility.

In the works of REIJIRO KUDO, while I am looking at them, what I didn’t perceive appears successively even if everything has already existed on his painting. I wonder if everything was painted and existed there from the beginning, or the illusion was created in looking at his painting. It seems that something which exists on the outside actually I am looking at appears from the depth of my unconscious mind.

That is why I am deeply impressed by his painting.

My sensibility is decentralized by other’s as the illusion and the unconscious. In this way, the paintings of KUDO appear between something exists and anything doesn’t exist there, or between something exists on the outside and is produced in my mind.

In other words, the painting is experienced in the creation, extinction and conflict between the visible and the invisible.

Visible and invisible. They were the main theme of modern abstract paintings.

In the initial stage of abstract painting, the artists are tried to explain anything immaterial and spiritual apart from the material and sensible world.

They challenged Aporia to explain something invisible and spiritual with the color and shape visible and sensible. It is not a painting without the color and shape visible, on the other hand, it is not spiritual as long as visible.

There are two methods to resolve this problem. One of them is that the artist makes flat the space of painting, and then minimalize the color and the shape visible as long as he can. The another is to use the color and shape as the minimum elements. The former is Kasimir Malevich (Russia), and the latter is Piet Mondorian (Holland), He appears the spiritual thing invisible on the critical point of the sense.

The method of KUDO is different with both of them. He doesn’t make flat the space of painting or minimalize the color, on the contrary, he uses a lot of color.

He repeats painting again and again with various layers of color, and that cause the discord of the fusion and a way of colors. The colors appear and disappear at the same time. He turns off color by using colors.

But how does he treat the shape?

The form is updated by repeating the creation and extinction, in each time he paints on the same shape as the canvas. We should call it “the field”, as this shape unified with the canvas is very different from the drawing on the canvas.

In pouring a variety of colors, he makes his painting invisible as individual color and shape by mixing them in obvious and conceal, creation and extinction.

As a result, he creates the space coexisting with the light and dark in the color, with emptiness and fulfill in the shape.

I feel that it looks like breathing and living as it is repeating the creation and the extinction in concern with my sensibility and other’s.

Other’s sensibility moves me looking at paintings.

In the same way, other’s invasion like light and dark, fulfill and emptiness shakes and decentralizes the color and shape too. In result we can call them no longer color nor shape.

Painting of transparent layers
HAYAMI  Takashi
art critic

The works of Reijiro KUDO have the characteristic that the surface near gray or black is contrary with subtle shine and depth.

They are achieving extremely monotone or monochrome, on the other hand they show the appearance the difference of opposite color tone and polychrome. It’s because of that he repeats to paint so many layers of color. While the layers of opaque color are coming to gray and black, the layers of transparent color make the unique dark color with light. That is the same bright appearing when the chromatic color (glaze) respond to the color of underlayer.

The painting of KUDO is created from the particular manner of this glaze.

The potential of paintings was monopolized by the shallow space and the contrast of colors in over 100 years, apart from the expression by the multilayer of oil paint.

 The main method of painting after impressionism is putting a succession of little touches of colors in brushstroke and surface.

The putting the color side by side is very good for expressing the light moving of colors on the surface.

It is well known that this lead to the method of contemporary art using the repeat and the division.

Recently this is questioned, and the possibility of painting, multilayer of colors and tonal expression is becoming to reconsider again.

The painting of KUDO is in this tendency.

Light is not always with bright. The color of his painting is not the bright color created by reproducing, being different with impressionism.

The light in the dark. That is different with the form and construction of painting in Italy. IN stead of that, he inherits the transparent light and the interest to the surface from Netherlandish painting.

Light is not always with the color.

Kudo convert the light to the color, on the other hand, traditionary the expression of transparent layer used to be considered the light as the tone of light and darkness.

The painting of KUDO is the light =colors, which is created by crossing light and shade in the dark., and also the realistic and specific light = colors, which is created by paints as medium autonomously.

Reijiro KUDO Exhibition review
TAKAMI   Akihiko
art critic

(1998,Galeria Rasen)

Dark Color Field painting makes dilate the pupil for a moment, it looks like we are in the dark unexpectedly.

The field like monochrome is the result to repeat painting again and again with various colors turning off the trace of brushworks.

KUDO returns his characteristic of painting to the flatness covered by matiére in minimal as one of the indicators to the achievement of Ad Reinhardt.

And he conceals the texture of light and tuning in the warm colors and in the solemn field based on the history of painting till modernism. At the edge of era everything goes by fast, it harmonizes with the sound of canon in far and deep distance, through the layers slowly.

STATEMENT   by  Reijiro KUDO 

I have ever read the ‘Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition’ by Robert Rosenblum. I was very interested in his explanation that the mystique and spirituality of German romantic painter represented by Friedrich, etc. was following to Mark Rothko or Barnett Newman. At that time, I was fascinated with the bright metier by early Netherlandish painters in 15 century and thinking how to use their oil painting technique to abstract painting. That was the beginning of my works making at that time. Right now, I use acrylic paint in stead of oil paint, and paint by brush, airbrush and spray gun. But I always wish to meet to the light inside the painting and the sense of immersion or the spirituality.

(11 . 2019)

One of the guide lines of my works since I’ve been facing the abstract paintings is the words by Barnett Newman “ painting should be plasmic not plastics” I am not yet sure what plasmic is, but I am always thinking about that I will be able to get closer to it by seeking anything among the ambivalent, color and light, surface and deep, emptiness and fulfillment, monochrome and polychrome, etc. I am seeking beyond the point is light itself , light itself in the painting.
(03. 2019)

Where can I find the difference between the lay and the painting? I often feel in the vain to paint when I recognize the beauty in the surface after putting the white color on the support and grinding it well. On the other hand, it is important how to create its shining and beauty as long as the paint is not only the object. They will be lost when I just repeat to draw intentionally. I believe that it is important that I should be in patient to repeat the painting and grinding under control the drawing till the light appears after combining the white color on the upper and lower layers. I seek the critical point of the color and the light and the world of the transparent white beyond the above actions. There is no way to meet the existence over the object excepting to communicate with the objects. It is necessary for me because I am trying to paint based on my uncertain.

(03 . 2017)