Detaching himself from the art world, Yamada shifted from Cubism-like still-life paintings in the late-1940s to pure abstraction in the mid-1950s and kept painting ‘for the time to come’ in the chaotic aftermath of the Second World War. Some 5,000 pieces Yamada left in his lifetime are recently under reevaluation for its exceptional position in the history of Modern Art.
Among the mass of works, ‘stripe’ and ‘cross’ are two predominantly ubiquitous motifs for Yamada, which were forged so as to mimic the shape of their supporting medium, referring to the rectangle of a canvas. Generally speaking, stripes are recognized as per se when viewers compare adjacent lines and perceive them as repetitive. Based on such nature of stripes, Yamada takes up the idea of using the outline of the canvas itself as a formal component in his works. He further blurs the autonomy of a component in his painting by employing a heavy repetition of the same motif to constitute a whole series. As a result, the inherent structural constraint of a painting allows each element in Yamada's work, such as a line, stripes, a canvas, a work, and the series itself, to be loosely and intimately interrelated to each other. This notion of relativeness is highlighted in the ‘cross’ work, in which colors and lines are distorted, repelling, and melting into each other on the canvas, creating a sense of motion within the image.
Rooted in the shape of its supporting medium, each object in Yamada’s work exists on the borderline of singularity and collectivity, exploring an ambiguous zone where a form appears not only as an independent element but also as one of the components of a work. This ambiguity projects Yamada’s work as incomplete without an end, but it is such nature that Yamada regarded as the essence of a painting. Rendered in calm colors, each of the expressive line drawn delicately yet dynamically across the canvas is a vivid testimony of Yamada’s committed solitary search for a new painterly expression in the turmoil of post-war Japan.