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Masatoshi Masanobu

Exhibition details

15 November, 2017
17 March, 2018
Event Category:

Axel Vervoordt Gallery Hong Kong is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Masatoshi Masanobu (1911-1995). The exhibition features works from the mid 1960s to the early 70s, which marked a remarkable and prolific development in Masanobu’s artistic practice. In occasion of the exhibition Axel Vervoordt Gallery will launch Masanobu monograph, here below an extract written by scholar Koichi Kawasaki.

Masanobu joined Gutai group in 1954 as one of the earliest members and participated in all the group exhibitions. Compared to other Gutai artists, Masanobu was a rather orthodox Japanese painter, who tried to make a living as an artist while supporting himself as an art teacher. Yet, Masanobu’s creative approach appears much more idiosyncratic to younger viewers than the artist could ever have imagined.

In 1947 Masanobu attended the Kobe Citizens’ Art Course, where he first met Jiro Yoshihara the teacher in the program. This meeting fuelled Masanbou’s fervent desire to study painting. He began actively submit his works to invitational exhibitions, included one organised by the Ashiya City Art Association. He also submitted his work to the Lapan Group Exhibition, the Babel Exhibition and the Seikatsu Zokei Exhibition. He continued these efforts for some time after joining Gutai without ever deviating from his basic approach.

Rather than naturalistic, the paintings Masanobu made from 1952 to 1954 dealt with motifs like flowers and landscapes. These were explorations of painting based on three-dimensional objects he had made. Around 1954, these shapes suddenly disappeared and were replaced by lines and planes. The artist’s works in the first issue of Gutai and the 1st Gutai Exhibition are made up brushstrokes with a wriggling aspect. This tendency continued until April 1958, when the shapes evolved into round, symbol-like forms.

From the 60’s significant changes can be observed in Masanobu’s practise showing his unique aesthetic. In a leaflet for Masanobu’s 1965 solo show at the Gutai Pinacotheca, Yoshihara praised the artist’s use of circles and dots, “More than symbols, they seemed like properties that might emerge when the logical structure of the ground was magnified and reproduced.” The evolution of Masanobu’s work is evident from his highly accomplished Gutai solo exhibition, but he was still not satisfied that the level of completion he had achieved was able to convey a “sense of life” through the intensity of the colours, shapes, and material. He wrote. “I want to bring my work closer to a place where you can sense the unutterable depth of the spirit and life that truly conveys a sense of life.”

After Gutai disbanded in 1972, Masanobu taught painting locally and was invited to hold solo and group shows in Nishinomiya and Kobe. The symbols on Masanobu’s canvases are the product of repeated hand movements, but they also represent the interplay between natural expression and calculated composition that was occurring in the artist’s mind. Masanobu’s work was underpinned by the methodical character that he had developed as a teacher, this same methodical quality imbues his art with its uniqueness.


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