In 1954, Shiraga joined renowned Japanese avant-garde collective Gutai and was inspired by Gutai’s leader, Jiro Yoshihara, to further push his performative, material-driven painting practice in order to “make something that never existed” before. During his time as a member of Gutai, Shiraga simultaneously pursued oil painting and performance, often integrating the two practices in performance-painting pieces as Challenging Mud (1955), in which the artist used his entire body to manipulate mud as if it were thick, pliable paint, and Ultramodern Sanbaso (1957), in which he wore a dramatic red costume with elongated and wing-like arms, his movements creating slashes of color against the stark black backdrop of the stage. Shiraga has participated to international exhibitions and his works are in the most important public and private collections, among them we have to remember: the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo and the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
The whole research by Shiraga combines the mental element with the physical, trying to free painting, artist’s language, from the bonds and conventions of academy and tradition. Energy, risk, improvisation, action and reaction are the basic concepts of language, translated into pictorial works of extraordinary intensity, where the gesture is the only solution for the liberation of the mind, both in actions and performances of great scenic impact and emotional. He continued this exploration of the relationship between body and material over the course of his career, and is best known for the large-scale foot paintings he made well into his eighties. The foot paintings explore themes of Japanese history, Chinese mythology, and Buddhism while preserving the explosive movements of an artist who continuously sought a dynamic and collaborative relationship with his medium.