Flower
Ball

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Critical Review

The Flower Ball series, produced by the renowned and experimental Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami, is an exciting and vibrant series that has arguably become the artist’s most recognisable and iconic.

The collection is composed of exuberant circular paintings in which Murakami produces a distinctive circular shape filled with an intense pattern of flowers. The flowers are rendered in bright and bold colours, bringing an exciting vibrancy to the works. The centre of the flowers resembles the smiley face emoji, and these smiling masks imbue the flowers with emotion. Discussing the smiling flowers, which have become one of Murakami’s most recognisable visual motifs and reappear frequently throughout the artist’s works, Murakami explains: “each one seems to have its own feelings, its own personality”. The individuality of the flowers is reflected in the fact that each flower has a unique combination of colours, which also showcases Murakami’s obsessive attention to detail and sensitivity to colour.

Murakami’s prints tend to have a flat or glossy surface, however in this collection, Murakami’s use of spatial recession produces a mesmerising 3D effect, giving the illusion that the viewer is looking at a three-dimensional flower ball. This is emphasised by the reflective ring of metal foil that runs along the edges of each print.

The addition of emoji-like faces to the cartoon flowers reflects Murakami’s love of popular culture. The artist’s aesthetic is deeply influenced by the Japanese ‘otaku’ culture, a subculture associated with computer nerds, anime and manga (Japanese cartoons and comics), as well as ‘kawaii’ culture, the culture of cuteness. Traditionally considered ‘low’ culture, by incorporating these influences into his artworks which Murakami produces using fine art techniques, the artist blurs the boundary between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, demonstrating how the two can co-exist within one piece of art.

Why is the Flower Ball series important?

The Flower Ball series captures the essence of Murakami’s unique visual style which is characterised by a love of colour, the incorporation of graphic visual motifs, such as smiling flowers, and an adoration of popular culture. The saturated patterns in this collection both overwhelm and excite the viewer, making it a visually stimulating series of prints that instantly capture one’s attention.

Murakami’s incorporation of popular culture into his works means the artist is often compared to Andy Warhol, the father of the 1960s Pop Art movement. The Pop Art movement challenged the notion of fine art by taking subjects from popular and mass culture, such as advertising or everyday consumer goods. One of the most notable examples of this is Andy Warhol’s Campbell's Soup series of prints. Like the Pop Artists, Murakami makes prints that depict cartoon characters from popular manga series and kawaii cartoon icons. These limited-edition prints go on to sell for six figure sums, meaning that Murakami elevates these symbols of ‘low’ culture to the realm of fine art and ‘high’ culture.

Pop Art is also renowned for an emphasis on mass-production and the use of machines to reproduce artworks. Murakami is obsessed with precision and perfection and aims to eliminate the hand of the artist from his artworks, which resonates strongly with the mechanical reproduction favoured by Pop Artists. Murakami has a team of over 100 technicians, all of which underwent rigorous training to be able to help the artist produce his works. The prints are all made using the same print making techniques and the technicians are tasked with cleaning up each print with a Q-tip, ensuring that any smudges or traces of the artist’s hand are eliminated. Like Andy Warhol’s New York studio, The Factory, in order to produce artworks on such a large scale, Murakami has a factory-size studio, known as Kaikai Kiki which is based in Miyoshi, an industrial area outside of Tokyo.

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