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Kumi Sugai

Kumi Sugai

Kumi Sugai PortraitKumi Sugai belonged to the first group of pioneering contemporary Japanese artists to adopt western styles of painting, and to practise them abroad, chiefly in Paris or New York.

Though he was born and bred in Kobe, his parents were of Malay origin, belonging to a family of excellent musicians. He studied art at the Osaka School of Fine Arts, were he became acquainted with western painting techniques through the teaching of Yoshihara Haruyoshi. At the same time he practised calligraphy and was fascinated by typography, both of which were to play an important part of his later work. But like so many Japanese writers and artists, he dropped out of school and his first job was with the Hankyu Railway Company (1937) where he was their commercial designer and a creator of advertising posters.

Sugai left for Paris in 1952, where he found Abstract Impressionism was the prevailing mode, the first of many movements he was to encounter and learn from, ranging from Pop and Op to Antiart, Kinetic Art to Minimalism. He began by adapting traditional ukiyoe woodblock techniques to his per- sonal vision of a foreign culture. The forms were contemporary, but the colours had the simplicity and radiant purity of classic masters of the art that enraptured Van Gogh and the Post Impressionists. He also experimented with silk-screen printing and lithography.
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