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The intriguing sum of a Japanese painter's 'abstract parts'

"Sarukanigassen" ("The Battle between the Monkey and the Crab"), painted in 1948, depicts a well-known Japanese folktale with a twist. (Courtesy of Tokushima Modern Art Museum)

TOKYO Avant-garde artist Yuki Katsura straddled cultures and eras. Born in Tokyo in 1913, she lived until 1991, spanning Japan's prewar and postwar periods. Her work shows both Japanese and Western influences. Her themes include the deep changes in society from premodern to modern times. And she was active when the art world itself was going through a momentous transition.

     Katsura is known for her allegorical works and lively depictions of animals. Though her paintings are anything but realistic, art critic Shigeo Chiba noted that they are not purely abstract, either. "They remain somehow representational," he said. "To put it another way, she assembles abstract parts to create representational images."

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