Chiyū Uemae


Axel Vervoordt Gallery is pleased to present its first solo exhibition by Japanese artist Chiyu Uemae (Kyoto, 1920 - 2018) in collaboration with the artist’s family and estate.
Uemae was one of the Gutai Art Association’s original members who remained in the group until its dissolution in 1972. While Uemae’s oil paintings and mixed media works from the Gutai period have been exhibited in various museums worldwide, his post-Gutai works have rarely shown outside Japan. This exhibition presents an overview of his Gutai pointillist works from the 1950s and 1960s, a selection of “Kigumi” wooden sculptures from the early 1970s, a collection of impressive “Nui” works from the 1980s and early 1990s, as well as a selection of oil paintings from the later years featuring his characteristic square patterns.
Uemae initially studied nanga, Chinese-style literati painting, before joining Gutai as one its founding members. Much appreciated by the group’s founder Jiro Yoshihara and his co-founding members Shozo Shimamoto and Kazuo Shiraga, Uemae can be considered as a unique Gutai member. Yoshihara insisted that “what is most important, is not the result, but the process of leaving one’s mark on the material”. To him, what mattered was the spiritual and not the material, the object and not the subject. Uemae was different. Between 1954 and 1964, he used a pallet knife to create tiny fragments of oil paint and produce paintings of microscopic detail. These works are characterised by repetitive gestures and vivid colours, such as red and yellow, which he superposes. He meticulously filled the entire canvas with these lines and dots. In these tick paintings, the so-called “auto-part”, Uemae aimed for the tactile more than for strictly visual appreciation. The process appeared to be very time-consuming and elaborate. Shimamoto wrote about this in 1984: “He [Uemae] would paint dots of paint, creating layer after layer, one on top of the other. He painted dots of red paint and then dots of yellow paint so the bottom colour disappeared… These works communicate with a completely different forcefulness from those that are more straightforward.”

Artists: Chiyū Uemae

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