Kato Art Duo is delighted to present GUTAI SPIRIT, a trio exhibition featuring renowned Gutai artists, Chiyu Uemae, Kazuo Shiraga and Yozo Ukita.
Gutai is a postwar artistic group founded in 1954 by painter Jiro Yoshihara in Osaka, Japan. The word gutai means ‘concreteness’ and this influential group was involved in large-scale multimedia environments, performances and emphasized the relationship between body and matter in pursuit of originality. This new movement came about during the postwar Japanese reconstruction, a time when there was an increase in cultural exchanges between Japan and the West, creating new opportunities of collaborations and influence of different artistic presentation and techniques.
In Jiro Yoshihara’s Gutai Manifesto (1956), Jiro wrote: ‘In Gutai art, human spirit and matter join hands while conflicting with each other. Matter does not assimilate spirit. Spirit does not subordinate matter. When matter has revealed its essences as it is, it starts narrating and even cries out. To make the most of matter is way to make the most of spirit.’ This idea of objects, signs and events being more important than subjects, symbols and images inspired Gutai artists and made them create many unique works. Gutai artists expanded the definition of painting through new techniques and methods of using the body in direct action with material, time, space and technology.
For this exhibition we will be showcasing different style of Gutai works, starting with one of the founding member, Chiyu Uemae. He was born in Kyoto in 1920 and started painting when he was in his teens. In 1953, he studied under Jiro and was part of the Gutai group until its disbandment in 1972. Chiyu’s oil paintings consist of multilayered material diligently built up from long pointillist patterns creating amazing pattern artworks. The dots and lines in his artworks are representation of the traces of his breaths and heartbeats as a painter who eagerly lives his life to the fullest.
Unlike Chiyu’s deliberate and repetitive works, Gutai artist, Shiraga Kazuo invented a unique method of action painting, which results in spontaneous and explosive energetic art pieces. Born in 1924 in Amagazaki, Japan, Shiraga studied traditional Japanese style painting in Kyoto Municiple School of painting when he was 18 and later shifted to Western painting. In 1955, Shiraga joined Gutai and performed one of his best-known works, Challenging Mud at the First Gutai Art Exhibition. Under the influence from Jackson Pollock, Shiraga apply ample amounts of oil paint to large sheet of paper of canvas and manipulate the paint with his feet while suspended from a rope attached to the ceiling. In this exhibition, we will be showcasing Shiraga’s brilliant use of colors and a collect of the artist’s vibrant screen prints and original work.
Last but not least, we will be also presenting Ukita Yozo, who is also an important figure in the establishment of the Gutai group. Ukita was born in 1924, Osaka and at age 23 he was employed at Ozaki books in Umeda and started working on a children magazine, Kirin. As Ukita was in charge in organizing the images for Kirin, he approached Jiro Yoshihara to have his assistance to illustrate for the magazine covers. With much encouragement from Jiro, Ukita began to participate in Gutai and exhibited his first work in 1955. Ukita’s involvement and devotion to Kirin, led him to develop a strong interest in children’s creativity and he appreciates the rawness and purity of their creations. This interest in children’s art is the core of Ukita’s artist identity; his works were about experimenting and creating in a free spirited manner. Ukita often used textural materials such as construction putty, wood, hemp cloth and striking primary colors, which result in wonderful minimalistic masterpiece.
Gutai Spirit will open on 4 January and runs till 15 January 2017. We would like to invite you to come experience and view the exclusive art pieces by masters of the Gutai group.