Tsuyoshi Maekawa

Two Junctions


In Tate Modern

Tsuyoshi Maekawa born 1936
Oil paint and burlap on canvas
Unconfirmed: 1621 × 1302 mm
frame: 1335 × 1657 × 55 mm
Purchased with funds provided by the Asia-Pacific Acquisitions Committee 2015


Two Junctions is comprised of pieces of burlap (a textile used to make jute rice bags) which have been placed onto a canvas and then cut, sewn and folded. Coloured enamel paint has been poured over the textured surface, producing an abstract image. The texture of the burlap textile is visible through the poured paint, while thin lines of white paint create a flowing linear composition. The painting was created in 1962, the year Maekawa joined the Gutai Art Association in the Kansai area in the west of Japan.

The Gutai Art Association was founded by fifteen original members in 1954 under the leadership of Jiro Yoshihara. The term ‘Gutai’ translates as ‘concrete’ or ‘embodiment’ and has been associated with the members’ shared interest in materials and the process of art-making. It was disbanded in 1972 when Yoshihara dies. After a period of no noticeable change in the group’s membership, other members joined in the early 1960s, including Shuji Mukai, Takesada Matsutani and Maekawa. Known as the ‘3Ms’ for the first letter in their surnames, they formed the core of the second generation of Gutai artists. The second generation shared the first Gutai members’ interest in the performative nature of painting while introducing industrial and everyday materials.

Having met Gutai artists including Shozo Shimamoto and Chiyu Uemae (and been exposed to their focus on materials and the act of art-making) Maekawa began developing his own method of creating expressive, abstract paintings. Maekawa has used burlap throughout his career, physically manipulating it as a way of creating intuitive, expressive forms and relief-like textures. Although artists such as Maekawa share much with the first generation Gutai artists, curator Hirai Shoichi has argued that the second generation is distinctive from the first in its approach to painting’s flatness:

In comparing the [second generation] artists’ work to that of Yoshihara and the early Gutai members, there is a striking difference in each generation’s understanding of flatness. Though many of the early members didn’t take issue with the obvious fact that the support medium for a painting was flat, the later artists adopted the problem of flatness as their point of departure and by attaching materials to the canvas, strived to achieve a new type of painting space that transcended the limits of the medium.
(Shoichi 2004, p.126.)

Maekawa has participated in a number of Gutai exhibitions, including Gutai Retrospective at the Prefectural Museum of Art, Hyogo, in 2004, Gutai: The Spirit of an Era at the National Art Center, Tokyo, in 2012 and Gutai: Splendid Playground at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2013.

Further reading
Hirai Shoichi (ed.), What’s Gutai, Tokyo 2004, pp.100, 123–5.
Ming Tiempo, Gutai: Decentering Modernism, Chicago and London 2011, pp.36, 133, 147, 182.

Sook-Kyung Lee
April 2014

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Display caption

To create Two Junctions, Maekawa placed pieces of burlap, a textile used to make rice bags, onto a canvas. He then cut, sewed and folded the material. Finally, he poured and dripped coloured enamel paint over the textured surface. This produced an abstract image that moves beyond the flatness traditionally associated with painting. Maekawa was a prominent member of The Gutai Art Association. This was a group of artists working in Japan from 1954-1972. Industrial and everyday materials feature in much of their work. They were also interested in how the act of painting relates to performance.

Gallery label, June 2020

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