The repulsion and allure of Takesada Matsutani’s 3D paintings

The repulsion and allure of Takesada Matsutani’s 3D paintings

Since the 1960s, the trailblazing Japanese artist has been developing his distinctive language of bulbous, surreal and sensuous forms. A show at Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong highlights the artist’s remarkable career and enduring appeal

Takesada Matsutani’s globular, blob-like compositions stem from an unlikely source: blood, which he viewed under a microscope in the 1960s with a friend at medical school. The Osaka-born, Paris-based artist sought to recreate what he saw, armed with industrial glue polyvinyl acetate and a heady dose of imagination. 

From the early 1960s until the 1970s Matsutani was a key member of the Gutai Art Association, the first radical, post-war artistic collective in Japan. The group spurned the traditional art approaches of the time in favour of performative immediacy, interactive environments and a new wave of experimental art. As the group’s manifesto stated, ‘Gutai art does not change the material but brings it to life.’

Matsutani went on to develop his own mode of lifelike material by pouring vinyl adhesive glue, inflating it with his own breath and slicing it and watching it cave in on itself as he dried it with a fan. The resulting forms were peculiar, disconcertingly bodily and went on to form the basis of his distinctive visual language. 

Portrait of Japanese artist Takesada Matsutani in the studio pouring vinyl glue onto a work in 2019 ahead of an exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong. Photographer Michel Lunardelli
Portrait of Japanese artist Takesada Matsutani in the studio blowing into a piece of work in 2019 ahead of an exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong. Photographer Michel Lunardelli
Above and below: Takesada Matsutani in the studio, 2019. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photography: Michel Lunardelli. © Takesada Matsutani

The artist’s six-decade career is spotlighted in an exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, the artist’s first solo show in Hong Kong. Organised with art dealer Olivier Renaud-Clément, the show spans the breadth of the artist’s practice, from works on paper created during a period of frugality in 1970s Paris to recent paintings conceived during quarantine and a seminal site-specific installation from the artist’s archive.

Some works resemble deflated balloons, such as Puffed up-1 and Puffed up-2 (both 2020); others are reminiscent of ruptured egg yolks, as seen in Circle-Yellow A.M. (2019). 

In recent years, Matsutani’s practice has evolved with more emphasis on the meditative and methodical, though he remains in tune with the values of his past: simplicity, pure gesture and raw material.

Three-dimensional painting, Puffed up-2 by Takesada Matsutani, as seen at Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong
Takesada Matsutani, Puffed up-2, 2020. Photography: Marc Domage. © Takesada Matsutani. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

The artist manages repulsion, allure and elegance in a single form. In his multifaceted, fluid approach, he seeks to stop time, materialise a suspended moment and harness philosophy’s call for a ‘return to the simplicity of everyday experience’. In Matsutani’s work, mind, body, matter and spirit converge. § 

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