Eternity will be velocity or pause (Emily Dickinson)
In one of the interviews screened at the exhibition Confluence in Manggha Centre in Kraków (Poland), Japanese artist Takesada Matsutani (b. 1937) describes his art, as ‘a communication of feelings’ through ‘creating beauty in black and white’. Quiet and contemplative just like its author, Matsutani’s work expresses the relationships with the world, human beings and the artist’s inner self communicated through materials sculpted in time and space. Coming from the artistic collective Gutai (meaning ‘concrete’)*, which took the Japanese and international postwar milieu by storm with uninhibited thirst for experimentation, Matsutani’s newest pieces reveal a similar curiosity about matter. Gutai’s foremost rule was to challenge formats, materials and blur distinctions between painting and other art practices and these thoughts resonate in the Confluence, transforming the gallery space into a journey of two artists, Takesada Matsutani and Aliska Lahusen. It is a meeting of forms, their qualities and the voids in-between them.
Similarly to Matsutani, Lahusen (b. 1946) – a Polish artist living and working in Paris creates paintings and sculptures which aim at equilibrium between emptiness filled with tensions and cavities suggesting movements. Inspired by Japanese aesthetics and lacquering methods, Lahusen nevertheless trials our perception of traditional materials. She also crosses boundaries between painting and sculpture, which inevitably reveal their primal inspiration: Japanese woodcuts and ceramics. Delicacy and endurance co-habit her pieces side by side, suggesting perhaps that time and its suspension are one and that everything will linger, just as everything will eventually disappear. Or is it vanishing right now… in its temporal actuality?
The project joint venture between Matsutani and Lahusen is a very successful attempt at telling a story of creative relationship between two artists, born on the other sides of the world and differing in styles. By sharing profound consideration for materiality, they invite the audience to look closer at natural materials such as wood, ink and canvas, as well as synthetic vinyl and glue, and to reconsider them as a breathing matter buoyed by the artist’s hand. Confluence – meaning ‘the meeting of two rivers’ – lies at the heart of this show and stems from the idea of diversity that can become synergetic. As we contemplate the lustre qualities of the glaze and the richness of the colours in Lahusen’s works, we also discover an intense depth in these otherwise flat surfaces. Concurrently, Matsutani’s matte canvases attempt at spherical shapes, which express a beautiful balance between control and chance. It might not be Gutai’s ‘the scream of matter itself’, but rather a quickened heartbeat; disquieting enough. In this way, the materials and their qualities are exercised and energized. It is refreshing and aesthetically rewarding.
Even though the exhibition space is soundless and discreet, it is filled with fictional sounds (rain, water, a gong, ink dripping) and becomes performative. The carefully crafted materials communicate through their shapes, colours and titles, which often refer to the idea of a journey, recurring along the display with the symbol of a circle. Lahusen’s Barroque Errante (Baroque Boat, 2017), Tambou d’eau verte (Gong of the Green Water, 2017) and Pluie de Hiroshige (Hiroshige’s Rain, 2015) are lyrical and narrative, recollecting spiritual pilgrimage. At the same time, Matsutani’s Propagation (2015), Balance (2015) and Stream (2015) evoke movement, process and rhythm; a journey too, but more dynamic and unsettling. Inevitably, the focal point of the show becomes a black sphere used during the performance at the Venice Biennale 2017. It is covered in ink which was dripping unhurriedly from a pierced canvas bag suspended above it. With time, tiny splashes form a halo – amorphous and mesmeric. There is something sensual and compelling about the liquidized processes, delicacy and cogency evoked by the Stream and re-energized in Manggha’s different setting and with the use of canvas. The sphere is a reminder of the past, which also instigates the newness. Therefore, the circle (sphere) continues; the process of negotiation between the stubborn matter and artist’s energy must carry on. This awareness is clearly shared by both, Matsutani and Lahusen.
Perhaps this – along with the minimalism – is the confluence between both artists: an idea of a poetic journey prompted by curiosity, influenced by their potential and resulting in the creative exchange. Which of course, continues through Hiroshige’s rain.
Spring rain –
under the trees
* The 1st Gutai Art Exhibition took place in 1955 in Ohara Hall (Tokyo).