Koji Enokura completed undergraduate and graduate degrees in oil painting at Tokyo National University of Arts and Music between 1962 and 1968. Coming of age during Japan’s rapid post-war reconstruction, he found himself overwhelmed and disconnected from an urban and rural landscape that had been polluted and transformed beyond recognition.
Enokura’s psychological and environmental concerns played themselves out in installations, painting and photography. In keeping with the practice that has become known as Mono-Ha, his interventions were temporary, minimally invasive, and anti-monumental, often involving dissonant materials and uneasy juxtapositions. Early works include Quality of Wetness, 1970, an almost imperceptible rectangular void in the earth indicated only by a difference in the tone of soil, and Wall, 1971 a concrete wall uncomfortably squeezed between two trees.
Stating later that “art is sensitivity not technique”, Enokura’s art is that of ‘encounter’ and represents his search for unconventional beauty, as manifested in the P.W. (Photo Works) series. A particular preoccupation is apparent with points of intersection between the natural and the manmade and the porosity of boundaries between man and matter. Inevitably these often involved elements of performance – the artist contorting his body to the shape of a broken wave on a beach in Symptom-Sea, Body, 1972, or wrapping himself around a concrete column Symptom-Column, Body, 1972 – recorded photographically.
Enokura’s uneasy relationship with painting resulted in works that scarcely resembled paintings in any conventional sense. Work, 1968, is a construction of paraffin wax, plywood, and woven steel fencing. In Untitled, 1978 he yielded control of the flow of paint to gravity and osmosis, as he poured used motor oil onto fabric, to create transparency and artless looking stains. Figure 45, 1981 is a heavily saturated canvas that hangs down across the wall and onto the floor, breaking the boundary between the two.
Enokura died at the age of 53. His work has been the subject of many gallery and museum exhibitions, most notably a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo in 2005.