This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by Takeo Yamaguchi Artwork Registration Association
The shapes I paint should move as though living and breathing. - Yamaguchi Takeo1
Keitai (Lot 716), whose Han title translates as "shape; form" or "shape; state", is a quintessential composition from Yamaguchi's distinctive mid-career period. Spanning the late 1950s and early 1960s, the signature style is defined by idiosyncratic geometric shapes rendered in ochre yellow or Venetian red suspended within deep black voids. The forms, imbued with palpable sculptural presence on account of layered impasto, seem to float, drift, or even rotate ever so slightly--mysterious and ethereal like creatures from space.
The illusory movement generated from Keitai exudes a chromatic vitality akin to that of Josef Albers' seminal series Homage to the Square, which began in the same decade. The German-American artist similarly employed knife instead of brush and a rigorous, disciplined approach to composition. However, unlike Albers' uniform gradations of colour, Yamaguchi used a single shade of yellow--inspired by the soil of Southern China--against black, nevertheless still achieving depth via texture, illusion via structure, and movement via organic form.
Such an effect owes itself to both process and philosophy. Yamaguchi layered on at least seven to eight coatings of paint for each work, responding intuitively to each layer and permitting each shape to evolve with a life of its own. Critic Miki Tamon writes of Yamaguchi's process as thus: "As the thickness of the paint increases, the voice of the colour also increases. He listens attentively to that voice with his whole body and proceeds according to the demands of colour [...] sometimes [also] suppressing them. In that process the form is reborn through colour".2
Each final shape is thus organic, imbued with life and movement. The final form floats up, buoyed and enlivened by Yamaguchi's patient nurturing. Critic Asano Tōru summarizes: "If [Yamaguchi's] work is judged to be somehow Oriental, that is probably because he does not try to impose man-made cleverness towards nature into his works. Rather he tries to give shape, in accordance with the laws of natural form, exactly like the farmer working the earth, to things taken from nature, things widely expanding and overflowing, things towering and soaring upwards, things stable and unshakable, things usually in movement, and so on".3
1 Exh. cat. Yamaguchi Takeo and Horiuti Masakazu, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, 1980, p. 20
2 Ibid, p. 243
3 Ibid, p. 244