photo: NAKAMICHI Atsushi / Nacása & Partners

Memory Being Supported Once

ArtistFUNAKOSHI Katsura
Material/ Techniquecamphor wood, marble
Size/ DurationH109×W64×D35cm
Copyright Notice© FUNAKOSHI Katsura
Year of acquisition/ donation2001
DescriptionBorn in Iwate, Japan in 1951. Lives and works in Tokyo.

Since the 1980s, Funakoshi Katsura has produced wooden, half-length sculptures of people. He has consistently used the same technique, which is to fashion the bodies and heads from camphor wood, paint them, and insert colored marble for the eyes. The harmony between the smoothness and delicateness of the heads and the vigorousness of the chisel marks left all over the sculptures is a distinctive feature of Funakoshi’s work. The sculptures, which possess a kind of spirituality more commonly associated with Shinto and Buddhist images rather than figurative sculptures, exude an air of tranquillity and nobility. In recent years Funakoshi has been working on his Sphinx series as part of a search for a universal human figure that transcends personality, gender, and other human characteristics.

Funakoshi’s work is characterized by the exquisite marriage of seemingly contradictory qualities, such as the balance between the smooth, delicate heads and the rough, vigorous bodies, and the warm yet refreshing atmosphere created by applying color to the wood in such a way that the grain is still visible. "Touch of Winter" is the first of five male sculptures with titles referring to winter that Funakoshi produced over a single year from 1996. The work has a peculiar delicacy and tension arising out of the countless elaborate sketches the artist produced in preparation for its production. In "Memory Being Supported Once", two heads are set on one body. The piece is based on a scene the artist, who played rugby as a student, witnessed during a rugby game. According to Funakoshi, he nursed the idea of turning this scene in which a forward suffering from concussion was helped off the pitch by a teammate into a work for more than 20 years. Many preparatory sketches for this sculpture survive, offering valuable insights into the process of trial and error that went into elements such as the composition, in which one figure embraces the other and in which the heads of the two figures are joined. "Drawing for 'Memory Being Supported Once'" is one of the final sketches made before the sculpture was produced.