Tsuyoshi Maekawa in conversation with Boris Vervoordt.
19.9.2017, 6pm at The Library Duddells
Opening 19.9.2017 7-8pm, in presence of the artist.
Axel Vervoordt Gallery
Axel Vervoordt Gallery Hong Kong is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Tsuyoshi Maekawa (born 1936, Osaka). This exhibition features works from the late 1970s, which represent the significant shift from the artist’s vigorous colour-based work to delicate fabric-based expressions. The 1970s can be seen as a preparatory period in which he discovered a new style and unique ways to explore pictorial spaces in painting.
Maekawa was a prominent member of the Gutai Art Association, which he joined in 1962. Gutai was at the forefront in developing new styles of art in the 1950s, and many of the Gutai artists adopted a variety of approaches to expand the concept of painting and performance. Maekawa was keenly aware of the creative issues that faced painting at that time. He was among one of the younger members who further expanded the scope of the medium from two dimensions into three dimensions, and his early works were praised for their primitive power. Nonetheless, it’s necessary to examine later developments in the artist’s practice to truly grasp the essence of his art.
Maekawa creates by freely manipulating pieces of burlap, by sewing the material into complex waveforms, and by pouring paint over the surface. An abstract image is created that transcends the flatness of traditional paintings. It’s important to stress that Maekawa focussed on materiality as a method of pictorial expression , and that he chose to use burlap — and other fabrics as well later on — for its material qualities.
In order to support the concept of originality — the founding principle of Gutai — Maekawa put a lot of effort into achieving a level of innovation by adopting new means of expression that centred on pleated fabric. So in the 1960s he started to combine the coarse texture of burlap with pleats in spiral-shaped lines. With all these traces of construction visibly on the surface, the creation process became revealed, exuding a primitive sense of power.
After Gutai’s dissolve in 1972, Maekawa kept the Gutai spirit of doing something that no one had ever done before, and he continued to achieve greater originality in his practice. He tucked seams on the reverse side of the cloth, which created delicate concave lines. By consciously applying subdued hues and as little paint as possible, Maekawa brought out the distinctive roughness of the painting through simplicity. With this new direction, he began to use pin-tuck techniques to produce simple shapes. These works had a totally different appearance from those of the Gutai era.
In the mid-1970s, a huge change occurred in Maekawa’s work. He developed a lighter, more refined style in which he combined cloth with different material qualities like hemp and cotton as his support medium. He also brought out the distinctive features of the fabric without applying too much paint.
In the 1980s, he produced even more delicate, refined works that were highly acclaimed. He received the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum Prize at the 15th Contemporary Art Exhibition of Japan in 1981 and other awards the following year. With esteemed recognition, Maekawa continues to explore possibilities in painting up to the present day.
*Shoichi Hirai, The Quest for Pictorial Spaces: The Art of Tsuyoshi Maekawa, “Maekawa”, 2014, Axel & May Vervoordt Foundation.