An almost opalescent blue form drips down the black canvas in this work by Takesada Matsutani (Japanese, b. 1937). Made from vinyl glue that is poured on the canvas then allowed to dry to create a film, Matsutani then uses his own breath to inflate the form and rupture the skin so that is evokes open wounds reminding us of drops of blood.

This new work is reminiscent of the artist’s bold color palette from the 1960s and 1970s, and is tied to his Gutai period when he began experimenting with vinyl glue. Gutai was not particularly well-known or well-received at the time.  Founded in 1954 by the painter Jiro Yoshihara in Osaka, Japan, it was the first post-war artistic group in the country and was seen as being radical. It was all about experimentation, and the artists who were part of the movement created very diverse works of art.

When Matsutani first tried to join to group he was rejected. After this rejection he started spending time with a friend of his who was in medical school. He started looking at microscopic drops of blood, and was inspired to take a new direction with his work. He recreated the form of a blood droplet with vinyl glue (newly on the market in Japan at that time).

After this experimentation he was accepted into the group and became a key member. The group was centered around the Kansai region far from Tokyo, and the art scene in Japan’s major city looked down on the group of artists. But, they persevered and stayed true to their artistic ideals. At the core of this was an allowance of letting the material lead the way and highlighting the method in which a work of art was made.

I quickly discovered its [vinyl glue’s] sensual quality, and from then on I would always strive for a certain sensuality in my work, coming from the materials themselves.

Takesada Matsutani

Keeping that in mind brings a new perspective to Drop in Time. As viewers we are meant to focus on the materiality of the vinyl glue itself. The artist has stated, “I quickly discovered its [vinyl glue’s] sensual quality, and from then on I would always strive for a certain sensuality in my work, coming from the materials themselves.” Its form is linked to the corporal and the sensual. Even though the material itself is inorganic, he pulls out a sense of humanity from its shape and movement.

His experimentation with vinyl glue was what brought him into the Gutai group, but it is also what led him to move to Paris where he has spent the majority of his career. His early work with the Gutai was recognized by a Paris gallerist. When he moved to the French city he worked with Stanley William Hayter where he learned about printmaking. However, he always returned to working in the three-dimensional. And, after all these years we see him still returning to the material that made his career: vinyl glue.

– Sarah McMillan

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