Yuta Nakajima: You recently shared a poem with me by Takeo Fukutomi that relates to your work, and speciﬁcally to ‘Triangle-18’ (2018). Can you tell me more about this?
Takesada Matsutani: Fukutomi, a friend of mine, wrote this haiku about water, the sea, and ripples. I am quite interested in how it relates to my work, ‘Triangle-18.’ The soft circular form of the painting is very harmonic, juxtaposed against the sharp point where, because of gravity, the vinyl adhesive gathers at the bottom of the canvas. I like how this triangle and geometric form have ripples made of vinyl adhesive.
Summer recedes from view
In a corner of the inlet
YN: I remember when I ﬁrst met you in Osaka in 2012. It was also the ﬁrst time I saw your work, and I was quite perplexed by the surface and sculptural quality of your paintings. If you weren’t there to explain it to me, I might have not understood this unique process of combining vinyl adhesive and graphite. Can you explain a bit about the steps involved in how you made ‘Triangle-18?’
TM: I started using graphite between 1977 – 1978, but not on canvas. I started ﬁrst with small pieces of paper. One day my friend asked, ‘Matsutani is this graphite, what is this?’ I said, ‘This is graphite pencil.’ He said, ‘Oh this is quite interesting material.’ The color of graphite is a beautiful black. It is not even truly a black, but it is also not grey. It is something very interesting and in between. My friend told me ‘if you make a work on 10 meters of white paper, covered with graphite, it will surprise people.’ So, in 1978 I was inspired to make my ﬁrst 10-meter drawing.
YN: When did you start combining the vinyl adhesive from Gutai period with graphite?
TM: That was several years later. By chance, I happened to read an essay by the novelist Tanizaki Junichiro, In ‘Praise of Shadows.’ He wrote about the dark, beautiful deep blacks. He wasn’t writing about pencil drawings or paintings, but I interpreted it into my own work. His essay is well-known, and I of course knew of it. But around 1978, when I ﬁrst read it, there was a connection I made with my own work.
‘It has the shape of a wrinkle in your clothes, but also like a wave too—sea water waves.’
YN: It’s quite nice to hear you speak about Tanizaki’s essay and how it had an impact on you during a pivotal moment. This combination of vinyl adhesive and graphite is apparent in ‘Triangle-18.’ However, for this work there is an interesting way where you cut into the vinyl adhesive…
TM: Yes, I cut it! That’s a very simple process. When I started to discover making three-dimensional forms, it took a while for the vinyl adhesive to dry, so I began a process where I cut the form in half, turning the canvas on its side. The form, when cut open, resembles a mouth, or pursed lips. It also looks like a ﬂower opening up, and sometimes has a sexuality which appears by chance. I looked at it, and thought it was quite interesting. Consciously I started to make this form where I blow the air into the vinyl adhesive, and then cut into it.
YN: When you make a cut in the vinyl adhesive and tilt the canvas so that the glue drips it has a beautiful natural form to it.
TM: Yes I consciously make the cut so it ripples. Maybe not only ripples. How do you say with your clothes, like cotton… in Japanese it’s ‘Shiwa.’
YN: Oh, yes like a wrinkle.
TM: Wrinkle! Yes, it has the shape of a wrinkle in your clothes, but also like a wave too—sea water waves.
YN: ‘Triangle-18’ was recently exhibited for the ﬁrst time at Hauser & Wirth Somerset in fall 2018. Olivier Renaud-Clément organized the exhibition and we installed it hanging from the ceiling back-to-back with another tondo (circular painting) entitled ‘Circle-White.’ What sparked this recent series of tondos and the inspiration to install them this way?
TM: I liked the idea of hanging two tondos back-to-back. The white one is an ambiguous form, quite soft and organic. I liked the contrast of the organic white against the triangular dark side. There is darkness in the void, and softness in the light.
YN: The ﬁrst time I saw the large tondos was for the 2017 Venice Biennale. Did you ever make a large tondo like this before or was that the ﬁrst time?
TM: No, that was the ﬁrst time. There will be new tondos at Pompidou exhibition too.
YN: So you’re currently working again with the same curator of the Venice Biennale, Christine Macel, on your forthcoming retrospective at the Pompidou, which is very exciting! You’ve been living in Paris since 1966 and I wanted to ask how important it is to be having this show in your adopted hometown?
TM: I love the atmosphere of Paris. I’m very happy to be showing and living here. I was born in Japan and lived there until I was 29 years old, then I came to Paris, so my first 29 years, my experiences were all on the Oriental side. Now I’m living with European influences, European philosophy, and how would you say… European perspectives. That is something I can’t refuse. It’s not Oriental, it’s not Japanese, it’s me, with the atmospheres from Paris, or France, or Europe, etc. I can say that honestly.
Centre Pompidou will mount a major retrospective exhibition of Takesada Matsutni’s work from 26 June – 23 September 2019. ‘Triangle-18’ will be included in Hauser & Wirth’s presentation at Art Basel, from 13 – 16 June 2019.