Holes is one of a series of works which, according to the artist, was begun either in 1949 or 1950. Created in the artist’s studio in Nishinomiya City, Japan, it was made using a number of sheets of newspaper, topped with a sheet of brown cartridge paper, pasted together with a glue made with flour and water. It was then painted white with hints of pale blue, and its surface was pierced irregularly to reveal the different layers underneath and the painting’s wooden backboard. Viewed from a distance, the overall effect is that of a lunar landscape, all craters and bumps. The contrast between the delicate hues and appealing surface on the one hand, and the violence and destructiveness of Shimamoto’s piercing of the surface on the other, can be said to suggest an interesting relationship between the perceived violence of his work and the qualities of beauty and order prized in traditional Japanese culture.
In a letter of 16 July 2002 to Tate, the artist revealed that he had started to paint on supports made of glued newspaper because in the early 1950s he could not afford to purchase canvas. Shimamoto found that the newspaper support would tear if the glue was not entirely dry before he started to paint on his makeshift support, or if the paper he had used was too delicate, and this provided him with the inspiration for his Holes series. When these works were first exhibited, they were largely ridiculed in Japan but admired by the innovative circles frequented by the artists who would form the Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai (Gutai Art Association) in 1954 under the aegis of the establish painter Jirō Yoshihara (1905-1972).