Exhibitions

Yuko Nasaka

12.03.2015 - 25.04.2015
Yuko Nasaka
1964, Untitled, synthetic paint, plaster and glue on cotton, mounted on wooden board
Axel Vervoordt Gallery Antwerp


 
Japan underwent an industrial transformation during the 1960s, which, after the disasters of WWII, spelled out the prospect of a prosperous future for the country. At that time a new generation of artists, including Nasaka, joined the Gutai Art Association and started experimenting with technology and cutting-edge industrial materials. This continued a trend of using non-art materials from early Gutai, but also responded to rapid industrialization and the mechanical proliferation emblematic of 1960s Japan, as well as to the artistic experiments with new materials in other parts of the world.

This belief also infiltrated Nasaka’s art and her use of brightly hued car lacquer is a good example of this. She tapped into that power and energy and made art in the here and now. Her large relief work is a modular series of square wooden panels coated with a thin layer of glue, plaster and clay, and placed on a homemade mechanical turntable. As the panel rotated, she used a palette knife to carve patterns into the material, a gesture she compared to working on a potter's wheel. She finished the panels with a fine spray of car lacquer, misted with an auto-factory air compressor. As if accumulating data or manufactured products, she then displayed the paintings in grids, some as large as the mural she created for her solo show at the Gutai Pinacotheca in 1964.
 
Though Nasaka underwent a very traditional art education and made work in strong connection with the Japanese tradition of ceramics, her goal was never to restore a tradition—which she greatly respects—but rather to create something new and thus give body to Gutai founder Jiro Yoshihara’s credo to “be original and do something that had never been done”.
 
Her work is perfectly balanced, between the harsh rationality of industrialization and the purity of Japanese tradition and meditation. Like a Japanese philosopher, she is able to express profound thoughts with very simple means. At first glance it may seem slight, but upon deeper reflection, her works are anything but superficial. Nasaka manages to tell a universal story through ordinary things that reflect the moment that is poised on the turnaround of the present.
 
Nasaka’s “moon landscapes” can be seen in that same spirit. They seem to be a direct reference to mankind’s attempt to make a first landing on the moon in the 1960s, although it was never her intention to imitate the moon. At around the same time, Yves Klein made his moonlike sponges, also without referring them to any specific moon. Although both artists most likely never met, they seem connected and shared the same fascination that was “in the air”. Klein performed the simple act of colouring ordinary sponges blue and Nasaka made “something” with car lacquer, plaster, glue and a potter’s wheel. They both made something that happened to look a lot like the moon; in fact, they made objects that reflected its possibility and with it the possibility of many other objects and thoughts.
 
Being one of the most prominent voices of Gutai’s last generation, Nasaka attached much more importance to the process of making art, then to its final result and meaning. Her work refuses to be penned in by any singular explanation. It can be interpreted in many different ways, whereby one view never dominates over another. It has no precise meaning; at the same time it means everything. It transcends the everyday and—in its openness—is connected to the very fundaments of being.
 
Everyone has their own interpretation of the work, based upon his own memories and perspective, but the meaning generated by Nasaka’s circles is infinite and open to every possible interpretation. This quality is the essential quality of every true Gutai work. Openness of meaning can only be attained if an artist is able to set aside the ego and can allow the interaction with matter itself to guide the process of creation. A Gutai artist does not have a preconceived idea of what exactly a work is going to look like or what it should “mean”. They let chance and the behaviour of the materials decide. Like every genuine Gutai artist, Nasaka considers herself to be nothing more than the medium that can allow matter to express itself further. She is guided by the essential qualities of the materials she uses and by any number of small coincidences that cross her path.


>> On the occasion of the exhibition we have published the monograph Yuko Nasaka, containing many unpublished historic photographs of Nasaka in the Gutai period as well as an interview with the artist, conducted by Mizuho Kato and two essays by Gutai specialists Ming Tiampo and Midori Yoshimoto.
 
The monograph is available at the gallery and on our website.
Yuko Nasaka
Yuko Nasaka
Yuko Nasaka
Yuko Nasaka
Yuko Nasaka
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