Lot 707
  • 707

Yamaguchi Takeo

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Yamaguchi Takeo
  • Fuza (Lotus Position)
  • oil on board
signed, titled and dated 1966 in Japanese on a label affixed to the reverse, framed


Gallery TE, Tokyo
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Catalogue Note

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by Takeo Yamaguchi Artwork Registration Association


Over the long years the various difficulties blur together ... I stick out my neck and try something, forced to move only in a last desperate effort to breathe. - Yamaguchi Takeo1

From the late 1960s onwards Yamaguchi's shapes expanded, progressing into vast rectangles that filled up more and more of the painting surface. In spite of the uniformity in colour, each monochrome field possesses unique character and charisma. Fuza (Lot 707) features two perpendicular black lines scored into the lower left quadrant of the rectangle, and a "sliced off" bottom corner adjacent to such incisions. Instead of rendering the composition lopsided, the structure is imbued with a curious gravity and balance--as the red rectangle seems to "tip", "fall", and gracefully "settle" onto its right side.

Titled Fuza, which translates as "sit" in the Buddhist lotus pose, the painting is a sublime example of the extraordinary power of Yamaguchi's line and composition: by using just two short, thin, well-placed black lines, Yamaguchi conveys not just one but two successive physical sensations of "falling" and "settling". While similar delineating features are featured in the colour fields of Piet Mondrian or Barnett Newman, their uniform lines, or "zips", as Newman called them, merely demarcate flat space on a flat plane--a far cry from the movement and gravity stimulated by Yamaguchi's organic incisions.

Such an astonishing achievement owes itself to Yamaguchi's core aesthetic philosophy. He once wrote: "It seems to me that there is the understanding that comes through your whole body, not just your intellect. This is true knowledge".2 As seen by Fuza, Yamaguchi's art indeed induces a corporeal bodily understanding and experience--evoking tension (the lopsided "falling") and then exhalation and release (upon the "settling" of the shape). One recalls the artist saying: "I stick out my neck and try something, forced to move only in a last desperate effort to breathe".

The power of Yamaguchi's Spartan lines, also present in KuroisenKatsu, and Sui (Lots 705, 710, and 722), lies also in their tactility. Spindly yet unyielding like bare branches against a sky, Yamaguchi's lines convey an arduous, almost painstaking, course of creation. This contrasts starkly with Lucio Fontana's actual slashes to the canvas, which are swift and assertively emancipatory. Both Fontana and Yamaguchi present tangibly raw surfaces: the former's perforated, the latter's carved; but a wholly different kind of emancipation is achieved with Yamaguchi's works--one of breath, patient labour, or the slow growth of a root or a tree.

1 Exh. cat. Yamaguchi Takeo and Horiuti Masakazu, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, 1980, p. 20

2 Ibid, p. 19