The true nature of existence lies in change itself, so that change—or flux—is the fundamental principle of the macrocosm. From this it follows that I am composed of a bundle of waves or flux. — Tawara Yūsaku (1932-2004)
Organized by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Universe Is Flux: The Art of Tawara Yūsaku is the first large-scale exhibition in this country of the famed Japanese artist’s paintings. On view in the Louisa Stude Sarofim Gallery from June 19 through September 15, 2013, Universe is Flux presents an artist whose evocative gestural paintings convey the world as unstable and constantly changing. Asia Society Texas Center is honored to host this exquisite look at his work.
Tawara saw all existence as composed of vibrational energy made up of wavelike forms he called “hado.” Through the cumulative effect of many brushstrokes, he translated this vision of reality into paintings with intense visual impact apparent even in his smallest 3 in. x 5 in. paintings. Although he eschewed representational art, many of his paintings recall traditional ink landscapes or other forms in nature.
Before she died my mother left me with words that seemed like a Zen koan:
“Above the clouds the weather is always fine.” I came to think that one day I would like to try to paint that world “above the clouds.”
Recognized in Japan as a connoisseur, collector, and proprietor of a famous folk art shop in Tokyo, Tawara returned to painting late in life. The exhibition will feature 77 works, mostly ink on paper, created in the 1990s, following a decades-long hiatus from painting, as well as pieces created just before his death in 2004.
Highlights of the exhibition include several renditions of the character “ichi,” which means “one” in Japanese. For the artist, it signifies more than a number. It is “the ‘One’ to which all things are ultimately reducible. It is the ‘One’ of the absolute world.” Traditionally executed in a single stroke in calligraphy, Tawara painted these ichi with his method of layering innumerable brushstrokes.
“I can't think of a better artist to deepen Houstonians’ understanding and appreciation of the beauty and poetry of East Asian ink painting,” says Hao Sheng, formerly with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and now a curatorial consultant for Asia Society Texas Center. “Tawara's works are immediately powerful, yet upon close inspection they literally unravel before your eyes and open to a place of luminous serenity—or to borrow his own words, ‘a world above the clouds.’"