Masaaki Yamada (1930-2010) produced a series of ritualistic and meditative paintings he called ‘work’ completed between 1949 and 1989. Vigo is proud to show an exceptional group of these works at Frieze Masters. In December, there will be a solo show at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Tokyo from where the exhibition will travel to the National Gallery of Modern Art in Kyoto.
In his work series, Yamada was determined to produce paintings on a continuum, the whole being a work in progress where one painting followed another, repetitive, ritualistic and meditative. This practice resulted in an accumulation of works, which give the unique impression of having occurred simultaneously.
The process is akin to that of the British craft potter in terms of a ritualistic daily practice where balance, modesty and a feeling of rightness prevails. This sustained introverted approach within a closed world occupied only by the artist and his paintings, was not reflective of the changes going on socially and politically around him, and resulted in works produced solely in terms of their own internal logic.
The stripes in the paintings we wish to show can be understood as metaphors for space. Kunio Motoe suggested we look at his stripe paintings as akin to the still lives of Morandi and consider them in terms of meditations on existence in order to understand them more clearly. Like Morandis paintings the same thing manifests its self, just in various forms and colour relationships.
When visiting Japanese Museums with the artist Oliver Marsden eight years ago I was introduced to Yamada’s work by my good friend Noriyoshi Horiuchi. I immediately bought a small grey and white 1965 painting from a modest and gentle dealer whose exhibition we visited. The following day I went to see the artist at his home, spending hours looking through paintings with him. He seemed calm, kind and patient.
These very rare stripe paintings include some, which I saw on my first visit, and have for the most part come directly from the artist’s estate. This is the first time Yamada is being shown in the UK and we hope you enjoy them as much as we do.
This Yamada show stems from Vigo’s interest in nurturing artists of historical importance who are relatively undervalued and due reappraisal. Yohei, (Horiuchi’s son and Vigo’s close collaborator on this project) and I look forward to sharing these works with you and welcome you to our exhibition.