As the breakout star of the Gutai Art Association at the time, Kazuo Shiraga (1924 – 2008) pursued a rapport between "body" and "matter" that anticipated a conceptual rubric that married theory with practice. Though abstract, his works are read through the themes of Japanese cultural history and Eastern mythology and, later, through more spiritual ideas related to his mid-life conversion to Buddhism. Quickly establishing himself as a pioneer in "performance painting," Shiraga became colloquially known as the "foot painter." After his 1955 performance "Challenging Mud," in which the artist wrestled a mixture of cement, gravel, clay, plaster, pebbles, and twigs into a "formless form," Shiraga devised an entirely new painting technique. From 1959 onward, he suspended himself from his studio ceiling, swung back and forth, and manipulated the paint exclusively with his ten toes to create a range of textures. As expected, this action required a high degree of physical exertion and personal pain that came with the lacerations and bruises on his body. Referencing the ancient Japanese sumo wrestling tradition and the bond between the artist and the natural environment, the violence of the gestures is synonymous with the fight for individuality and creative freedom in post-war Japan, in which the body itself became the site and literal embodiment of emancipation.