This historic commission was done as an illuminated manuscript published by Crossway, to commemorate the four hundred year anniversary of The King James Bible, released January 2011. Five major frontispieces, 89 chapter heading letter and 148 pages of illumined pages, this unprecedented marriage of a modern, usually secular art form with ancient scripture that most interests Fujimura, who aims to depict “the greater reality that the Bible speaks of… for the pure sake of integrating faith and art in our current pluralistic, multicultural world.” The original images were shown in the inaugural exhibit at the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C., Gonzaga University Jundt Museum, Takashimaya Contemporary Gallery in Tokyo, at Dillon Gallery and Waterfall Mansion Gallery in New York City.
For the chapter heading 89 letters—Each of the chapter heading letters are done as visual exegesis of the content of the chapters, so it is possible to meditate upon the content of the gospel pages with these images. Copyright © Makoto Fujimura, 2011
Charis-Kairos (The Tears of Christ)
Charis (Grace) Kairos (Time), takes the methods I developed for my Soliloquies series which exhibited my large scale works with Modernist master Georges Rouault’s paintings. Taking Rouault’s indelible images as a cue, I decided to start with a dark background, to illumine the darkness with prismatic colors. I write in the introduction to the Four Gospels’ project by Crossway:
“I painted the five large-scale images that illuminate this volume, The Four Holy Gospels, using water-based Nihonga materials (Japanese style painting), with my focus on the tears of Christ (John 11)—tears shed for the atrocities of the past century and for our present darkness.”
Matthew—Consider the Lilies
Consider the Lilies is done with over sixty layers of finely pulverizes precious minerals (azurite and malachite), oyster shell white, and painted with sumi ink that has been cured for over a century, as well as gold and platinum powders, mixed with Hide glue (Japanese Sanzenbon, which is no longer being made), to adhere the minerals onto a hand-pulled Japanese paper. The painting depicts Easter lilies, with triumvirate flowers opening up, but with the suggestion that even these common lilies are transformed into a post-Resurrection, generative reality.
Water Flames series depict the way in which flames not only consumes, but ultimately sanctify. These works recall the visual language of the apocalyptic, moody paintings of the American artist Mark Rothko (1903-1970)—using Japanese vermillion, gold, platinum powders and cochineal (made from India’s dye made from a cochineal insect). The work moves our gaze upward, even as we stand in the ever-expanding Ground Zero conditions of the world.
The title of this work, based on a well known tale of the lost son in Luke 15, is taken from my pastor Timothy Keller’s book, Prodigal God. The visual complexity of the work depicts my own inner struggle between legalism of religion (the elder brother) and the “recklessly spendthrift” nature of the Father’s love in the story. In the art world and culture in which we celebrate the wayward, but not having the language to bring the lost (myself included at times) back home, these series of works probe deeply into the tension that exist within my heart to love deeply—in spite of the legalism and the waywardness that prevails in the wider culture.
John—In the Beginning
This work visually echoes the Charis-Kairos cover piece in the same way that the beginning of the Gospel of John echoes the beginning of Genesis. The first chapter of the Gospel of John speaks not only about the origin of all creation in Jesus, but also about the mystery behind creation. Art needs to inhabit such mysteries—to open us up to the generative reality of the deeper questions that lie behind our questions.
The portion of John—In the Beginning was done as a live performance, as part of an ongoing collaboration with Jazz percussionist/composer Susie Ibarra (see portion of Plywood documentary here).