“I’ve always wanted to create shapes that no one has seen before,” the artist said, smiling at the canvases hung at his first solo show at Axel Vervoordt Gallery in Hong Kong. “I have made paintings for a while now; although the peaks come in waves, I believe the present is the most intriguing time in my artistic career. I’m only getting started.”
Born in Osaka in 1936, Tsuyoshi Maekawa is celebrated as a core member of the Gutai Art Association from 1962 to 1972 and as an innovator of form in his own right thereafter. His works largely involve fabric and paint on canvas, as he invites the viewer to contemplate the materiality of his paintings’ surface.
Founded in 1954, the Gutai Art Association sought to rebel against the climate of nationalism in Japan and promote a radical and individual form of expressionism. One of the most notable examples is Kazuo Shiraga’s performance-painting piece, Challenging Mud (1955), in which Shiraga threw himself into a pile of clay, staging a pile of clay as an expanded canvas and recasting his half-naked body as a paint brush. Maekawa’s work in the 1960s incorporates hand-cut burlap (hessian) and oil paint, creating a tactile abstract surface, such as in Two Junctions (1962). Part of the so-called “second generation” of Gutai artists, Maekawa took greater interest in adding to the canvas rather than subtracting anything from it. Burlap, an everyday material used to make rice bags, is hand-sewn and torn on the canvas so as to create intricate, undulating shapes. Maekawa pours and splatters paint directly onto his works, thereby drawing a certain spontaneity and coarseness out of his avant-garde creations.
After Jiro Yoshihara’s death in 1972, the Gutai Art Association disbanded and Maekawa took this as an opportunity to forge his own path and seek out his own original artistry. The Osaka-born artist began to incorporate machine processes and new materials such as linen, cotton and paper into his practice. Rather than pleat the fabrics by hand, Maekawa used a sewing machine to fold and inlay his textile-canvases and experimented with spray paint to create a subtle, more delicate effect than his Gutai-era works. Light and shade are produced by materials interacting with one and another and one gets a sense of depth, not from the layering of material, but from the fabrics themselves. Maekawa’s aesthetic assumes a meditative delicacy based on the works’ vibrant colours and material properties.
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
1963 Tsuyoshi Maekawa Solo Exhibition, Gutai Pinacotheca, Osaka
1975 Solo Exhibition, Osaka Prefectural Gallery [’79]
1977 Tsuyoshi Maekawa Solo Exhibition, Shinanobashi Gallery, Osaka
1978 Tsuyoshi Maekawa Solo Exhibition, Tor Road Gallery, Hyogo
1980 Solo Exhibition, Fuji Gallery, Osaka [’82]
1983 Solo Exhibition, Hiramatsu Gallery, Osaka [’85]
1986 Solo Exhibition, Yamaki Art, Osaka [’88, ’90]
1989 Solo Exhibition, Gallery Hanamitsu, Osaka [’90, '93] 1991
Solo Exhibition, Tsubaki Kindai Gallery, Tokyo [’93, ’03]
1993 Solo Exhibition, Gallery Yume, Tokyo [’94, ’95, ’97, ’99, ’02, ’09]
1996 Solo Exhibition, LADS Gallery, Osaka [’99, ’01, ’03, ’06 , ’10, ’13]
2014 Tsuyoshi Maekawa, Dominique Lévy Gallery, New York Maekawa - The Gutai Works, Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Antwerp
2015 Tsuyoshi MAEKAWA: Energy Extortionist, Whitestone Gallery, Hong Kong
2016 Tsuyoshi Maekawa in the 1970s, Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Antwerp
2017 Tsuyoshi Maekawa, Saatchi Gallery, London