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Untitled, 1960

Oil on canvas

Untitled evokes natural or vegetal elements at first, Imaï being attached to nature to create his works. Thus, we seem to distinguish a plant on the right of the composition, the central white figure resembles a fish and the red figure in the lower right corner a flower. The Gutai group focused on the relationship between man and nature, which many critics have affiliated with a certain Japanese sensibility. Despite this, Imai's work is of matter paiting. He paints with oil on canvas, traditional materials, but his way of abusing the paint is completely innovative: the touch of the work and even the smell for the burnt canvas. In this work, Imaï stages the important link between the material, bodies and the spirit: this is characterized both by the appearance of the paint and the pictorial process. The canvas and the paint appear to be burnt in some places. The paint is blackened, cracked, sometimes even blistered. The materiality of the painting is highlighted, it is first that which shocks the glance before even the colors or the forms. This violence, the violent gesture of the artist, makes the link between the spirit and the material, because it is the result of the first on the second. A link is also created between nature, via the forms of the composition, and man, because the treatment of the canvas recalls a wounded or bruised human flesh. Burning the paint is a way of making the material disappear while highlighting it, in the manner of ruins: something has disappeared and yet it is undeniably there. In 1960, the trauma of the nuclear bomb is still very present in Japan: Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been razed. How to tell what has been and what is no longer, if not through dust and ruins? Imai’s “matiérisme” confronts us with our perception of reality: our perception of reality is conditioned by our experience of the concrete, "gutai", often defined as present and hard, while forgetting that we are just as much confronted with emptiness, with nothingness. Nothing is more frightening because reality according to Imai is frightening. But this painting is also a source of hope: it is on the ruins that we rebuild, that life is reborn. God himself created man out of mud. Imai paints a wound, but there is no indication that it will not heal.

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