Lot 131
  • 131

INOUE YUICHI | Kan — A Frontier Pass

250,000 - 350,000 HKD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Inoue Yuichi (Yu-ichi)
  • Kan — A Frontier Pass
  • ink on Japanese paper laid on board
  • 127 by 203.5 cm; 50 by 80⅛ in.
titled in Japanese and numbered 66036 on a label affixed to the reverseExecuted in 1966


Private Collection (acquired directly from the artist)
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Yu-Ichi [Yu-Ichi INOUE]: Catalogue Raisonné of the works 1949-1985, Vol. I 1949-1969, ed. Unagami Masaomi, UNAC Tokyo, Tokyo, 1998, CR no. 66036

Catalogue Note

The characters I write have been used in our society for a long time and the oil from my fingers has seeped into those characters. That is why it is possible for me to pour all of my energy into my calligraphy.

Inoue Yuichi The Weight of Lightness

The colossal, bold strokes of Inoue Yuichi’s Kan (A Frontier Pass or Gate) emanate a quivering ethereality – a classic example from the artist’s concision period (1966-1969) in which he focused intensely on a single character for a short, intense period of time. Rendered in massive strokes that tremble with sublime internal tremors and intricate rivulets of ink, Kan crosses over the pictorial edge of the frame, defying traditional rules of calligraphy and evoking a subtly heart-wrenching sense of pathos. The present work was created during what the artist himself describes as a period of personal crisis: a year in which he was coming to terms with the death of his mother and his own declining physicality, and a year in which he developed an obsessive and enduring affection for Sato Mayuno, a woman 30 years his junior. The artist never professed his love for Sato, but a great deal of romantic poetry was found in his diary in those years. Alongside the present Kan (A Frontier Pass or Gate), which alludes to restraint, repression, caution and a ‘closing-up’ or desire, Inoue also created works with the characters ‘no’ and ‘love’ repeatedly and extensively during that period. Kan also testifies to an important breakthrough in Inoue’s innovative experiments with ink: in the 1960s, the artist began combining a water-based glue and carbon powder to resolve the issue of cracks caused by dried ink, a feature observed in his earlier works. Well demonstrated by Kan, Inoue achieves via this new method the distinctive effects of aqueous flow, marbling and tonal variation within one single stroke. Alongside Morita Shiryu, who was the most visible member of the Bokujin-kai, the more withdrawn Inoue also received swift international acclaim, exhibiting alongside the likes of Jackson Pollock, Yves Kline, Hans Hartung and Pierre Soulages at the São Paolo Biennials (1957, 1959 and 1961) and documenta II in Kassel (1959). In 1966, the year the present work was created, both artists were featured in the first Japan Art Festival staged in New York, and both had their respective solo exhibitions held in European cities such as Frankfurt, Hanover, Cologne and Wuppertal in the previous year.