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 Alongside Morita Shiryu, who was the most visible member of the Bokujin-kai, the more withdrawn Inoue also received swift international acclaim, exhibiting alongside the likes of Jackson Pollock, Yves Kline, Hans Hartung and Pierre Soulages at the São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.
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