Sadamasa Motonaga - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 25, 2017 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Fergus McCaffrey Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Water, and all its permutations, lies at the core of Sadamasa Motonaga’s oeuvre: a body of works that has continually sought to render a fluid substance as a concrete one—an apt distillation of the Gutai group’s titular concern: ‘concreteness’.

    Motonaga was one of the Gutai group’s most distinguished and dedicated members, remaining part of the group from 1955 – 1971, joining and leaving just one year shy of the group’s entire creative span (1954-1972). During his first year in the group, and in the first collective exhibition of the Gutai group, Experimental Outdoor Exhibition of Modern Art to Challenge the Midsummer Sun, Motonaga presented Work (Water), a group of pendulous, water-filled vinyl tubes and sheets resembling tear-drops, filled with red ink. In this first example of what his master and Gutai founder Jiro Yoshihara would later dub ‘the world’s first water sculpture’, one recognises the young Motonaga’s fascination with literally capturing the element. Later on, he would develop an interest in tilting canvases, allowing pigment to dribble and collect into puddles and rivulets, evoking the traditional Japanese technique of tarashikomi (‘dripping’).

    But perhaps the most significant change in Motonaga’s oeuvre came during a brief sojourn to New York from 1966 to 1967, during which time he perfected the use of an airbrush filled with acrylic paint. With this new-found technique, he created pieces such as Yon Kuru, the striking colour of which is precisely a potent reminder of Work (Water). To create these works, the artist first filled notebooks with little spirals and shapes, later transforming them into larger pieces.

    The present lot is a mature and stunning rendition of his spray-painted pieces, created just 2 years after the end of Gutai following Yoshihara’s passing. Featuring the nonsensical title 'Yon Kuru', the piece is a playful backward glance on the artist’s career featuring a deft exploration of water. Within the gradient swirling biomorph, immaculately painted with a soft almost cartoonish touch, Motonaga’s past as a manga artist and newspaper illustrator becomes evident. This rare early work thus powerfully serves as a fine testament to the artist’s creative and whimsical oeuvre.


Yon Kuru

signed and dated 'S. Motonaga '74' lower left
acrylic on canvas
162.5 x 130.1 cm. (63 7/8 x 51 1/4 in.)
Painted in 1974.

HK$1,300,000 - 2,300,000 

Sold for HK$1,500,000

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20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 November 2017