MURAKAMI’S MUSHROOM. Magic mushrooms are intriguing. They have numerous shapes they can take. As much as they can nourish, they can also poison. They can harm at the same rate with which they can heal. Your meal can attain a new level with them, or shrooms can take your mind to a whole new dimension. They’re puzzling and mysterious; they grow in unusual places under abnormal conditions. There is much embedded in these remarkable creatures. More than history can document, it has been a source of inspiration to humans, featuring in arts and different cultures worldwide.

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Some renowned artists have reaped the benefits of mushrooms; we will also take time to look at some of them and celebrate them. We will look at Takashi Murakami, a famous artist from Japan, for this article.

Murakami started his career in art with a rich education in arts. In 1986, he earned his BFA in painting from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, where he also earned his Ph.D. some years later (1993).

He started to create a niche for himself, blending contemporary pop art with traditional Japanese painting. “SuperFlat” that’s what he tagged in his works. This tagline is a suitable description of how he renders his results in a flattened 2D at a different angle from the 3D artwork style many western arts adopt.

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Putting the “Fun” in Fungi

Murakami created a painting he called “Super Nova” in 1999, which was notably his first mushroom piece. This painting shows a squad of innocent cartoonish mushroom characters in a technicolor palette, all in a psychedelic pattern. Every aspect was tailored to follow a single perspective; it is a perfect example of his Superflat style. The piece documents his country’s antique interest in mushrooms. The psychedelic pattern, cartoon aesthetic, and colorful palette pronounce the strong effects of psilocybin, one of the many mysterious features of this unique plant.

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Murakami’s enthusiasm for fungi ranks him well in a prestigious ancestry of Japanese artists. One of Japan’s 18th-century painters, Itō Jakuchū, featured mushrooms in most of his works, which details images of flora and fauna. Specifically, it was well pronounced in one of his pieces from 1761, a compendium of vegetables and insects. And after two centuries, this piece can be seen as a live inspiration for “Super Nova” Murakami’s famous mushroom piece. In the early 20th century, another Japanese artist Takehisa Yumeji followed a similar pattern featuring mushrooms in his paintings and textile designs.

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A cloud looms over mushrooms.

Nagasaki and Hiroshima experienced a dark cloud in 1945; there was a bomb explosion. This event changed the positive association in Japanese culture. The immediate destruction imposed by mushroom clouds and long years of corrupting radiation succeeding their fallout supplemented a traumatic implication to the national correlation with mushrooms. New groups with a common interest in mutation and toxicity joined the lexicon.

Whenever Murakami paints mushrooms, this complicatedness is always present. In 2002, he did a follow-up piece to the SuperNova piece around an acrylic painting tagged “Army of Mushrooms .”There was a catalog of cartoon-influenced mushroom figures in this piece, which nicely blends the ancient Japanese admiration for fungi and Japanese Modern pop culture with a touch of a subtle shade of darkness.

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Initially, “Army’s collection,” which was cartoonish mushrooms with humanlike qualities, resembled the Japanese notion of Kawaii, characters that are childlike and very cute. The list-style layout of the characters evokes Gashapon (a tiny collectible figurine) sold in vending machines in Japan. If you take a closer look to pay more attention to the details, you will notice some creepy things: countless “unblinking eyes; yet these eyes wiggle,” “stalks which are tendril in nature; yet jagged .”The psychedelic nature of psilocybin mushrooms comes to the fore with sticking colors and trippy motif; the mushrooms also have an alien-like appearance and take some weird forms. These mushrooms have tired eyes, heavy lids, and a playfully dazed expression.

In 2007 Murakami hit this theme once more with posi mushroom. Like others before it, it’s a painting that gathers cliques of mushroom figures blending ancient Japanese music with a touch of modern anime, psychedelia, and Kawaii. Murakami said, “mushrooms look to be cute and erotic while evoking, more especially for western imagination, the amazing euphoria of  fairy tales.”


The subject matter of mushroom is broad and the mysterious features attached seem inexhaustible. Shrooms, directly and indirectly, have inspired the artist to create jaw-dropping artworks. Its influence has not diminished in any way. This guarantees we will get to witness mushrooms more in Murakami’s future.