The year was 1976.
Even though Japan had finished its period of rapid economic growth, the cities were still full of people and full of vitality. Zensui was born in the Showa era, a time when the smiles of families and local people and the social community of helping each other still existed.
Surrounded by his parents, siblings, grandparents, and his dog, Zensui grew up in a normal environment, but from an early age, his curiosity about “why” was stronger than anyone else.
Japanese norms and social common sense. Individuality is suppressed by peer pressure.
Schools and teachers who punish students based on interpretation rather than facts, and who bind students with baseless school rules that require them to “read the atmosphere and be cooperative.
“Who am I?”
Zensui’s genuine doubts grew and grew until he found himself in a community of “dissenting” delinquents.
As he grew older, his questions only grew, sometimes looking for answers in history, sometimes asking questions to many people, he began to feel that Japan, the country he was born and raised in, was an oppressive environment with little freedom, unlike many other countries in the world.
From the 1990s to the 2000s, the Internet expanded, creating a world in which many people and information were connected.
I wondered if there were people out there who felt the same questions I did.
With a smartphone in hand, we can travel the world by LCC, and anyone can become a communicator through SNS.
It was a moment when the distance between the worlds became overwhelmingly close.
Zensui took off. And I saw and felt the world firsthand.
It was the moment when I began to understand the answer to the question I had felt since childhood, “Who am I?
Zensui chose to express the feelings he felt in his heart as art.
This is a beautiful and sad story of the far east of the biased “Far East Japan.
Zensui is an artist living in the 21st century, recording the turning point of the times.
The colors are a fusion of Japanese traditional and modern.
The creative aesthetics of IREZUMI and Zensui’s own identity are compared and contrasted to express tenderness and liberation in the midst of absurdity and oppression.
Zensui says, “IREZUMI are a false image constructed by the Japanese media with a political agenda, as a brutal and vicious anti-social symbol, both at home and abroad. However, behind the prejudice, human kindness, humanity, and the spirit of helping the weak are the essence and beauty of IREZUMI. He said.
Through Zensui’s works, I hope you can feel the essence of the beauty that lies behind.
The first exhibition was held in Nagoya. (Exhibition in Tokyo was cancelled due to the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11)
2013 Participated in an art exhibition in New York. (The exhibition was cancelled due to the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. Since then, he has been focusing on creating artworks, including custom-made works.
Held a month-long solo exhibition in Tokyo. After that, he received offers from companies outside Japan, and started activities that combined art and promotion.
In addition to painting and design, he will release a new original music track and start producing an album.
Zensui also released NFT art as a symbol of the evolution of new works and expressions.
There is a term of men’s masculinity which is called Ninkyoudou(任侠道) in Japan, and Ninkyoudou also represents consideration for other people as they cannot leave behind someone who is in trouble for their justice even if they have to sacrifice themselves. Currently, there are several groups of Yakuza, which is a name for the Japanese mafia. Furthermore, there are so many gang groups and mafias in the world.
We have an image for those antisocial groups that threaten people and rob money or stuffs from someone weaker. Currently, Ninkyou is a term for those Yakuza groups. They were supposed to have the mind of helping weaker people, but unfortunately, the activity and thought that Yakuza members have is in contrast to the Ninkyoudou now. In the period when people esteemed Ninkyoudou (mainly Edo period ~ Meiji period), there were people who were on the summit of the organization, corresponded to other groups, and lead their subordinates. Those leaders have been called KUMICHO.
The reason why he put the title KUMICHO on this art is that he wants the Ninkyou-spirit to exist today around our society. Japan is the only nation that has experienced being exposed to the atomic bomb radiation during the final stage of World War 2. Moreover, on March 2011, a significant earthquake and tsunami hit the Tohoku region in Japan, and the earthquakes destroyed one of the nuclear power plants that lead to the radioactive contaminant. In the world, there are also unexpected natural disasters like hurricanes. Some countries are still fighting with their hostile country or even domestically.
We are always living with such menaces, and people are gradually losing their energy, vitality, and future as they live through it. It does not seem to end even in receiving this kind of bad news. Especially for him, since he experienced the Tohoku earthquake, the disaster changed his value and lifestyle that he had had until that day.
Therefore, the experience has been strongly inciting and motivating him to create those wonderful arts and he hopes that his art encourage those people who lost their motivation to confront their difficulties. “Don’t give up”, ”You are not alone”, “Tomorrow will be brighter”. He has been sending those messages to viewers and he will be glad even if a few people receive those messages and are encouraged by the art.
The IREZUMI, covering his whole body, is a symbol of patience. These sorrowful eyes in poker face represent that he is carrying several pasts. If you look at his feet, you realize that he does not have any fingers. In unique and painful custom of NINKYOU(currently YAKUZA), they cut their own finger with a knife to show their respect toward hostile groups when they wanted to finish fighting with their opponent. This custom is called YUBITSUME( 指詰め), and his feet, thus, representing the perfect shape of NINKYOUDOU. The model of this huge and brave dog is Tosa-ken that is mainly considered as dogs for dog fighting in Japan from a long time ago, and the flower in the IREZUMI is the Chrysanthemum that is known worldwide as a common flower that mourns for death. Zensui depicted the chrysanthemum to show the respect for the life and death of Benkei(弁慶), who is an ancient historical Japanese person. In Japanese history, Benkei was a rowdy fellow in his childhood. When he became an adult, he started making an effort to plunder 1000 of the samurai‘s swords after defeating them. He achieved 999 swords, but he was beat by the 1000th person Ushiwakamaru (牛若丸) (a.k.a. Yoshitsune Minamotono: within the dynasty Heian period). From that time on, he worked for Ushiwakamaru as a servant during his whole life. On his deathbed, hostile armies tried to attack Ushiwakamaru, and Benkei struggled to protect Ushiwakamaru from the attack. He was very strong but the enemies were too many for him to deal with. Eventually, Benkei got countless arrows on his whole body, but the strength of his soul that wanted to protect Ushiwakamaru kept him standing even though he was already dead. This is the legend of Benkei and Ushiwakamaru. Many people respect and have been influenced by this legend. Zensui is one of them, and he concluded that their ways of life are suitable to describe an impression of KUMICHO.
That would be the best if we could have strong and unbeatable spirit every moment as Benkei, but sometimes we must confront the huge wall we have to get over. In short, the message that Zensui wants to send us through this art is “Stay on your feet! Be confident as KUMICHO!”