Jun Inoue is a Japanese contemporary artist, born in 1981. Inoue’s unique style of live, adrenaline-charged performance painting displays the metaphysical dimension of his works.
Jun was raised in regional Kanagawa, where he studied traditional Japanese calligraphy, and where his grandfather, a Zen Monk, became a major influence on his philosophy and aesthetic vision. The solidity and grace of the forms in his paintings are evidence of the deeper philosophical foundation behind the gesture. Inoue has been creating since he was a boy. From an early age he made cars, trains and trucks from cardboard, and as a teenager he evolved his craft into graffiti. In high school Jun moved to Tokyo and became involved in the city’s growing underground scenes. Highly influenced by American youth culture, including hip-hop music and fashion, his graffiti reflected this. It wasn’t until he studied art after high school that he began to identify with his Japanese roots and incorporate his culture into his art. At the time, Tokyo graffiti had become distinctively focused on sweeping movements and minimal abstract shapes. It was in this scene that Jun found the platform for his unique vision, adding to the vivid artistic dialogue that was buzzing across Tokyo’s streets and walls.
Jun is a key figure among current Tokyo street artists, and his work is a combination of two very different styles of art – shodo, traditional Japanese calligraphy, and raku-gaki, or graffiti. This mixture culminates in energetic, vivid and edgy pieces. By uniting the two styles, Jun has re-translated and revived traditional Japanese art to the younger Japanese population and to the western world.
More than a combination of styles, his art is literally a song and dance. Before beginning a new work, Jun limbers his body in preparation, puts a hip-hop track on and dances in front of his blank canvas. He then runs towards the canvas and attacks it with spray cans, rollers, brushes and splatter. It’s a theatrical performance that often takes place before an audience, and it’s one that is intuitive and immediate. ’The music is important, the space is important, because that’s all there is,’ he says. ‘I go on what I feel at that moment. I don’t plan beforehand, I notice stuff.’ This way of creating art results in dynamic and vibrating pieces, often painted outside the given canvas.
Jun is a member of The 81 Bastards, a crew consisting of five Tokyo’s leading young painters, each representing a rebellious new wave of Japanese art, with a goal to redefine live performance painting. In the US, his art was used in Nike stores and on skateboards and sneakers. Most recently, it appeared in a collaborative range with Tokyo fashion designer Mihara Yasuhiro for Paris Fashion Week, where Jun also splattered the models before they walked the runway.
Inoue lives and creates in Tokyo, Japan.