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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction

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Masaaki Yamada
1930 - 2010
WORK C.80
dated 1961 and inscribed in Japanese on the reverse
oil on canvas
73 by 50 cm. 28 3/4 by 19 5/8 in.
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Provenance

Satani Gallery, Tokyo
Private Collection, Japan
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Catalogue Note

Masaaki Yamada’s ritualistic, meditative abstraction illuminates a sublime internal logic based upon relationships of purity in colour, gesture, and form. The present two works offer a distinctive glance into Yamada’s oeuvre encompassing compositions that consist exclusively of linear forms and loose, confident brushstrokes retained within specific colour fields. Yamada wrote, “the thick, almost impasto paint on these works partly resulted from not wanting to have weak colour planes made simply by adding brushstrokes over and over, but I recall the process of creating them as being plagued by an anxiety and a fear of the unknown” (Masaaki Yamada cited in: Nakabayashi Kazuo, Masuda Tomohiro, and Nazuka Masae, Eds., Endless: The Paintings of Yamada Masaki, Tokyo 2016, p. 49). The artist’s apprehension undoubtedly relates to the tangible desolation of post-war Japan, and the year 1945 is a critical reference point for the artist not only as the year the war ended but also as the year he began his artistic career. Yamada’s abstraction thus engages with this inherent post-war solicitude, and while his works do not offer any explicit social or political commentary, they are a product of the artist’s negotiation of the residual fears of war, and the “search of a way to somehow survive in a real world over which chaos reigned…” (Masaaki Yamada cited in: Ibid., p. 265)

The result is an immense series of calming, delicate works such as Work B. 184 and Work C. 80, which include colour planes and stripes that assume their own individual character and significance upon the surface of the canvas. Yamada’s technical and intellectual approach to abstraction made his work a rarity in post-war Japan, and his repertoire has been linked to that of Ad Reinhardt, Agnes Martin and Ellsworth Kelly, key proponents of American abstraction. Born in Tokyo in 1930, Yamada began exhibiting professionally when he was just 19 years old, and by the mid-1960s his work had garnered international appeal in a spectrum of foreign exhibitions including those at Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, The National Museum of Art, Stockholm, Galerie Denise René, Paris and at the 19th São Paolo Biennial, São Paolo.

Work B. 184 and Work C.80 are fundamentally bound by their reduction of form, their chromatically coordinated colour schemes and their spatial, linear planes. In their quietness the viewer loses any sense of temporal dimensions, and consequently, the present lots are exceptional examples of Masaaki Yamada’s ephemeral and transitory painterly realm.

Contemporary Art Day Auction

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London