Atsuko Tanaka - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 25, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Art-U Gallery, Osaka
    Private Collection, San Francisco
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    San Francisco Art Institute, Gutai. Experimental Exhibition of Modern Art to Challenge the Mid-Winter Burning Sun: Gutai Historical Survey and Contemporary Response, 8 February - 30 March 2013

  • Catalogue Essay

    Atsuko Tanaka was one of the most celebrated figures from the eminent Gutai group founded by Jiro Yoshihara in 1954, and was amongst just a few artists praised outright by the French critic and curator Michel Tapié. It is clear that Tanaka left an indelible impression on Tapié, who visited the group in Japan in the 1950s, and she remained the only female Gutai artist mentioned explicitly in A Mental Reckoning of My First Trip to Japan. In the text, he remarked, “I have a deep respect for the whole group [Gutai] as a group, but I would like to name four artists who should appear alongside the most established international figures: Shiraga Kazuo, Shimamoto Shozo, Yoshihara Jiro, and Tanaka Atsuko.” (Michel Tapié, A Mental Reckoning of My First Trip to Japan, 1957, n.p.)

    Tanaka’s oeuvre, populated by pulsing orbs of bright colours, stems from an almost singular preoccupation with capturing energy itself. In the first and second installments of the Gutai Art Exhibition, held in 1955 and 1956 respectively, Tanaka presented two works that fully demonstrated this fascination. The first, a work entitled Work (Bell), presented a circuit of ringing bells activated by viewers, which created a chain of chimes throughout the exhibition room, growing and waning in volume. The second piece—a photo in which Tanaka is most-oft shown—is her Electric Dress, a heaving contraption made up of two hundred light bulbs and tubes; a dress of sorts worn by Tanaka onto the stage of the 2nd Gutai Art Exhibition. When taken together, it is clear that the artist’s interests lie in the interconnections and symbioses between action/reaction, artist/material, both of which echo the key proponents championed by Gutai: the kanji for ‘tool’ and ‘body’, translated into ‘embodiment’ or ‘concreteness’.

    In pieces such as 2001-F—an elegant and mature example of Tanaka’s most celebrated series—one sees Tanaka’s fixation on such motifs. The piece, composed of an intricate web of brightly coloured circles and lines, can be taken as an allegory for energy and life, and is immediately reminiscent of cells, or perhaps a diagram of the cerebral signals. To create these pieces, Tanaka places her canvases onto the ground, first freely creating bright circles, and then adding meandering lines to join them to one another. Through this, we get a glimpse into the artist’s spontaneity and her subconscious. When interpreted against the context of the artist’s post-war memories of gradual industrialisation and urbanisation of her hometown, when cities gradually came to life once more with electricity, this piece becomes a nostalgic look back onto a pivotal time of change in Japan.

Property of an Important European Collector



signed and titled '"2001. F" Atsuko Tanaka' on the reverse
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
193.6 x 258.6 cm. (76 1/4 x 101 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2001.

HK$6,000,000 - 8,000,000 

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20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 November 2017