Shinkichi Tajiri

'Seed', 1962 - 1964

Location: next to Vertigo building

Following the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor in 1941, thousands of Japanese immigrants in the United States are detained in internment camps. Among them are the family of Shinkichi Tajiri (1923 - 2009). As a way to escape he joins a special military unit that lands near Naples, Italy, in 1944. After being wounded he becomes a draftsman working in camps for 'Displaced Persons'.

Having returned to his relatives in Chicago, he enrolls as a student at the Arts Institute in that city. Finding the treatment of Japanese Americans in the USA no longer bearable, he leaves for Paris in 1949. There Tajiri continues his studies and is taught by Zadkine and  Fernand Léger. He becomes acquainted with the Cobra movement and takes part in their first sensational exhibition in Amsterdam. But Tajiri is not a true Cobra artist. His creation process is less spontaneous and he works less from the subconscious than artists like Appel or Corneille.

In the nineteen fifties Tajiri makes sculptures depicting carnivorous plants and warriors, using metal he often obtains from scrap yards. The warriors do not glorify war. On the contrary, Tajiri wants to purify himself from the horrors and the violence through which he went.

In 1956 Tajiri moves to Amsterdam. The following year he marries the artist Ferdi Jansen, whom he had met in Paris. Through the birth of his two daughters he becomes fascinated with the concepts of 'growth' and 'life'. When he represents the Netherlands at the 1962 Biennale of Venice, he displays his first 'Seed', a theme he will repeat in a number of variations.

The pregnant seed balls on stems combine the male and the female in a single image. Eroticism and aggression often feature in his work. But Tajiri doesn't just connect aggression to suffering, eroticism or sexual pleasure. Eroticism and aggression both relate to the human survival instinct.

See also
Carel Kneulman

Links Shinkichi Tajri
(third article)          

Photographs of his work

The historical image bank TU/e in the Picture includes a documentary film about life and work of Tajiri. In the search bar of the image bank enter the terms Tajiri and Film.