Acquired directly from the artist. A private Asian collection.
First Time Showing 16, UNAC Tokyo, Tokyo, 1992.
Masaomi Unagami, YU-ICHI: catalogue raisonné of the works 1949 - 1985, Vol. 3 1977-1985, UNAC Tokyo, Tokyo, 1996, p. 51, cat. no. 77043.
Widely exhibited and enjoying great international acclaim throughout his career, Inoue Yuichi is one of the true pioneers of Japanese abstract calligraphy. Buddha is a superb example of his single-character, gestural paintings, distinguished from the Abstract Expressionists of the West with powerful and uniquely Japanese subject-matter and style.
In this painting, the character for Buddha (Butsu in Japanese), is rendered with a strong, forward momentum and an energetic whiplash gesture. The brushwork injects the image with power and audaciousness, while still maintaining a sense of tranquility associated with its Buddhist appellation. This dichotomy is symbolic of Yuichi's own intellectual beliefs on the marriage of tradition and modernity. Over the course of his career, Yuichi attached particular significance to painting traditional calligraphic characters as a means of reflection and cultivation, while at the same time using calligraphy as an agent of Japanese modernity; to "follow the past and herald the future" were words he lived by.
Yuichi's importance as an artist grows out of the political and intellectual context in which he worked. In post-war Japan, the development of modern calligraphy arose from a common desire to restore national confidence through the arts. Under this backdrop, Yuichi and fellow avant-garde Japanese calligraphers such as Shiryu Morita founded the influential Bokujinkai group (Ink Art Society), which sought to liberate calligraphy from its deep-rooted traditions and put it on equal terms with modern Western art. Among Bokujinkai and Japan's Gutai group—a radical, avant-garde association of performance and installation artists and intellectuals—debates raged about the role of tradition in the dramatically altered society of post-war Japan. Jiro Yoshihara, the key figure behind Gutai movement, argued for the abandonment of calligraphy, viewing it as a restricted form of expression constrained by kanji characters. However, Bokujinkai ultimately embraced the belief that calligraphy could exist in the modern context, and moreover could be a vehicle through which Japan's modernist aspirations could be realized.
Yuichi engaged sincerely with these debates, and the significant variation in his artwork closely tracks his personal and intellectual development. Indeed, Yuichi only arrived at his oeuvre of single character works such as Buddha after becoming disillusioned by early attempts to "liberate" himself from his traditional roots. Seizing the beauty of kanji—written characters—and utilizing his entire body to channel energy into his work, Yuichi began to create life-sized expressions that link tradition and modernity in transcendent fashion.
People were often struck by Yuichi's honesty, simplicity, and straight-forward manner. He never showed a work he didn't feel best represented his artistic practice and was known to frequently destroy works he viewed to be "inferior". Reflecting the deep personal and intellectual struggles at the heart of this sincere artist's life, Buddha is a prime example of why Inoue Yuichi is regarded as one of the 20th century's most important Japanese artists.
Overall in good condition. In the mid-section of the image, there are signs of restoration where there may have been a small tear. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."