Vinyl glue, also known as white glue, is a kind of adhesive glue that is widely used in the wood and furniture industries. It has a milky white color, a unique yet non-pungent smell, and is specially formulated to penetrate wood fibers. To artist Takesada Matsutani, vinyl glue doesn’t only serve industrial purposes. It is an important medium that he always uses in his artwork — a medium that embodies infinite possibilities. When talking about Takesada Matsutani, it’s difficult not to mention Gutai Group for he is one of the most representative figures in the group. Over the years, Matsutani has developed a unique visual language of form and materials. When he first started to experiment with vinyl glue, he’d use a fan and his own breath to spread air on the glue. The glue would move around on the canvas and form various shapes. For example, a round and plump shape that looks like a female body, or when he cuts open an air bubble and puts red paint over it, the result resembles a wound on the human skin. This kind of experimental creation seems to be changing the original personality or purpose of the material, but Matsutani thinks the opposite, “Gutai art does not change the material but brings it to life.” Through the pursuit of possibilities, something new is created; this is an embodiment of the artist’s desire for freedom.
Matsutani got the inspiration to use vinyl glue as a medium from the experience of observing blood samples through a microscope. This enlightenment happened early in his career. Since then, he’s been experimenting with vinyl glue. He’d use glue to create circles and bubbles on the canvas, then blow on them, cut them, or use a fan to blow dry them, and eventually they would collapse and form different shapes. The results are bizarre and sensuous with infinite interpretations lying within. For example, the art pieces, Puffed up-1 and Puffed up-2, are like deflating balloons; Circle-Yellow A.M. is like a broken egg yolk; and Slow Slow 20-6-8 symbolizes flesh, blood, and wound. Matsutani’s works are sculptural and dynamic. The long hours it takes to pour, dry, inflate, and cut the vinyl glue infuse the work with a sense of fluidity and passing of time.
During the 1970’s, Matsutani was living in Paris with very limited resources. It forced him to rethink the essential tools that he needed for art-making. He discovered that inexpensive graphite and paper were actually the most basic necessities required for black and white painting. Matsutani would repeatedly paint over the vinyl glue with graphite causing bubbles to bulge and deflate. The end-results were both abstract and beautiful, simple and dynamic. Decades have passed and his focus on creating black and white art continues to this day. Although Matsutani doesn’t consider himself a Zen practitioner in his art, he believes in the philosophy of ‘returning to simplicity,’ rejects ‘systematic thinking’, puts an emphasis on ‘a constant moment-to-moment praxis’, and his repetitive and seemingly meditative brushstrokes bring a sense of Zen to his work. His abstract style and Zen-like approach could be seen as a revisit to his traditional japanese art background.
The first solo exhibition of Matsutani in Hong Kong includes some of his most iconic work as well as some new pieces created during the pandemic including new mixed-media paintings, works on paper, and assemblages. Through this collection of work, visitors can witness how the artist’s style has evolved over time. The exhibition will also allow visitors to acknowledge the repetition and fluidity of everyday life and take in how a suspended moment is materialized and turned into the form of arts.