MAEKAWA – THE GUTAI WORKS
13 March – 3 May 2014
Solo-show with historical paintings by the Japanese Gutai-artist Tsuyoshi Maekawa (°1936, Kohama, Osaka). On the occasion of this exhibition, a catalogue with a complete survey of the Gutai history with many historical images and an unpublished interview with the scholar Koichi Kawasaki and an essay by curator and Gutai connoisseur Shoichi Hirai
The work of Tsuyoshi Maekawa is an ode to matter. As is common to the art of all Gutai artists, his practice entails an authentic and personal approach with great respect for the material in all its purity. The tactility he manages to convey is deeply moving.
In Gutai, matter is the true vehicle of expression. It represents nothing other than itself. The ego of the artist never prevails over it. The artist is at the behest of the medium. Gutai is about the concrete: that is its essence. A painting does not have to represent a landscape or still life: it does not have to represent anything at all. Instead it presents itself in all its pure materiality. Paint is paint; found canvas is canvas… It is what it is.
Following the true Gutai spirit, Maekawa places himself fully at the service of matter. Raw, gritty, tough, chosen from life, the weft and weave of burlap are his medium of choice. As anyone who has ever draped a piece of material knows, the way a piece of fabric falls or folds in a certain disposition is difficult to predict: it demands an active, first-hand involvement. The way it stretches and pleats carries the authenticity of presence; these works cannot possibly be reproduced. As such, Maekawa’s works stand out from the time in which they evolve. They are specific and unique.
With Maekawa the primary index is the artist’s hands, mind and eyes combined, which actively confront the material. The traces expressed in the coarse fabric, whether it is mounted on canvas, squared, ripped, folded, creased, painted over, tied together or glued, are dependent on the various decisions the artist makes when he is caught in the midst of creative flow. What we as viewers are privileged to see (and experiences) is the residue of that process. Every splash or fold is the result of an active decision. The viewer is drawn along by the brute force of the momentum it expresses and taps into the multiplicity of options it proposes.
Maekawa’s art travels down many roads: it is an art of possibility. His work shows us common materials as we have never seen them. A multitude of wrinkles swept round in curved formation, evokes patterns that seem familiar; perhaps it is their playfulness we recognize; or that gentle interplay
of light and dark, echoing rhythms that remind us of the patterning of an animal hide or the plan of some primeval city structure. These associations were never intended by the artist, but the work strikes a chord with countless archetypal residues that sit in our collective unconscious.
Maekawa’s work tells us about our place in the world. It does so, not through images or representations, but via the material, which stands for itself.