Flavio-Shiro / Tres Mundos Productions, 2019
An icon of tropical modernism, the Japanese-Brazilian painter Flavio-Shiró is one of Brazil’s most celebrated postwar visual artists. A truly multicultural figure, his life and work are emblematic of Brazil’s complex cultural identity. Born in the snow-covered landscapes of northern Japan and raised in the Amazon jungle, Flavio-Shiró moved to Paris in the 1950s to commit himself to a life of painting. His powerful, large-scale artworks, which fuse elements of surrealism and abstract expressionism, carry traces of jungle landscapes, Japanese calligraphy, and the Parisian avant garde.
The painter is now the subject of a forthcoming documentary film, FLAVIO-SHIRÓ, directed by Margaux Fitoussi and Adam Tanaka (who is the artist’s grandson). Made in conjunction with a major retrospective of Flavio-Shiró’s work in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in 2018, the film also commemorates the painter’s recent awarding of the Order of the Rising Sun by the Emperor of Japan, the highest honor conferred by the Japanese government to non-politicians.
Rather than a conventional biopic, FLAVIO-SHIRÓ is a meditation on the relationship between creativity and solitude and the notion of life as a work of art. Shot on location in the artist’s home-cum-studios in Paris and Rio de Janeiro, the documentary invites the viewer to ponder the meaning of a life well-lived, blending philosophical anecdotes, half-remembered dreams, and childhood reminiscences. At once joyful and contemplative, the artist’s reflections reveal the psychological landscapes embedded in each and every canvas.
“Flavio-Shiró is a cult artist, a painter’s painter. His work defies categorization, shunning any obvious association with an artistic group or movement. For more than six decades, his work has simply been modern. No Brazilian artist can match the length of his career, which has run essentially uninterrupted since the 1940s….”
“Shiró is many artists in one, an international artist who might be better considered as transcultural, because his work emerges from a harmonious exchange between east and west, north and south, that is between Sapporo, Japan, Tomé-Açu, Brazil and Paris.”
–Paulo Herkenhoff, Former Chief Curator of the Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro.
Flavio-Shiró / Stills courtesy of Tres Mundos Productions
Margaux Fitoussi is an anthropologist, filmmaker, and translator. Her short films have screened at the Atlanta Film Festival, Mountainfilm, and the New York Jewish Film Festival. She is based in New York City.
Adam Tanaka is Flavio-Shiró’s grandson. An urban planner and filmmaker, his projects have been published by The Boston Globe, CityLab, the Journal of Urban History, and Slate, among others. He is based in New York City.
Directed by Margaux Fitoussi and Adam Tanaka
France, Brazil, 2019 / 21 minutes