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CJG Projects presents Shozaburo Kawai and Juliet Holland in


 "Matter of Abstraction"


An exhibition of two abstract painters of great richness and complexity, both of whom have turned to essential forms and elements where medium and gesture are distilled to a universal cultural quotation.


September 13 - October 15, 2000

with an opening reception Saturday, September 16, 7 - 9 PM



Shozaburo Kawai


Japanese painter and printmaker Shozaburo Kawai's work reflects his first, essential concern with the intersection of material and mark.  The art of that intersection is a result of both intent and nature, for Kawai comes to his work as a technically accomplished artisan, knowledgeable of the nature of the materials and the interaction of those materials with the environment, and as an extraordinarily sensitive artist, acutely aware of the influence of synchronicity in art making and in the inspiration of the maker, the coincidence of material and spiritual.


Kawai's effort is not to represent, rather to reveal. 


He is both a constructionist and a "matter" painter.  His abstract compositions are distinctive for their built-up surfaces, a many layered ground of linen stretched over wood panel, thick pigment, earth and sand, paint, glue, iron, and that essential fluid, water, a kind of extension of the process of fresco.  It takes four or five days to dry up.  While the surface is wet, Kawai marks and scratches, incises it with tools (knife, nail, screw driver, drill, wire brush, etc.) Once dried, he polishes the surface with sandpapers.  Finally, he finishes with water paints. The ground color, subdued and rich, seeps into the cracks and fissures bringing to the surface the ancient layers of the earth, the mystery of the past, memory.  The finished painting is an image infused with the lyrical rhythm of gesture, mark and color -- repetition, counterpoint, pause, movement and countermovement.  Restless and tranquil, it is music for the eyes -- and the spirit.  Using base materials, the artist expresses his deeply spiritual, antimaterialistic values.


According to Koichi Maeda, Director, Osaka Contemporary Art Center, Kawai's painting "can be described as a kind of action painting, but the rough textures of the surfaces he produces, against expectations, convey a feeling of Oriental tranquility." 


In creating the prints, Kawai rolls the oil colors in vivid, fresh hues onto the surface of the flat constructed work, and then presses the image onto the paper.  He finishes the original textured relief with more color and pairs it with the print, revealing the continuum of poetic implications inherent in the work.  Several of these "Pairs" are included in the exhibition.


Born in Myazaki in 1924, one year, in fact, after his kindred spirit Antoni Tąpies was born in Barcelona, Kawai spent happy time painting and making things in the workshop of his father, an industrial artist.  He completed his formal studies after World War II, at the time when Japanese painting circles began to absorb the influence of European and American painters.  In 1949, he graduated from Osaka Municipal Art Craft School. 


I started to turn my eyes to the foreign countries.  I wanted to touch

the real art and wanted to get something from it.  Fortunately, I got

a chance to go to Europe for a year in 1966.  I began to change my

ideas and my style.  I started to be more interested in the abstract



His sojourn in Italy had a significant impact on Kawai.  It confirmed his belief that all human beings are one family, in spite of racial, cultural and national differences.  He could speak no Italian, but he was able to communicate.  He felt at home in Rome.  Returning to Japan, he brought with him this sense of belonging to the world. He eschewed the conventional Japanese association exhibition system, and developed his individual way.


Twenty-five years after his visit to Europe, in 1991, and after 16 years of making prints, Kawai held his first exhibition of the abstract tableau paintings, opening to sincere appreciation.  This is Kawai's first exhibition in the United States, where he is exhibiting concurrently in New York and Provincetown.





Juliet Holland has found a way into the esoteric heart of art making with her mysterious forms, her glowing color.  In the smallest tableaux, she merges past, present and future with her genius for spatial organization. 


Holland, also, works within the aesthetic lineage of Antoni Tąpies.  Her heavily encrusted "matter" paintings, laden with texture and incised with markings resembling hieroglyphs, distressed surface, elemental universal symbols, evoke a kind of primitive consciousness that roots one in the circular continuum of life. 


Starting with a foundation of wood, paper, clay, or Styrofoam (Many of the paintings in this exhibition begin with roofing paper.), Holland builds up the surface with sand and plaster stained with acrylic pigment and metal powders. Design, material, and mark work together to lead to a moment of knowing in nature, entirely detached from our daily distractions.  According to Art Critic Martha B. Scott, these layered surfaces, enunciated with gestures and redefined raw material - plaster mixed with sands, pebbles, volcanic ashes and wood detritus that she collects from all parts of the world, "breathe history, deterioration, ruins, and in so doing create their own beauty."  


Still, these "earth poems" are not limited to illuminating our ancient origins. The paintings seem a kind of meditative practice, examining the ritual actions through which human beings seek to give order and meaning to the world. In those actions, in those marks, the result is not always tranquil.  There is the truth of violent nature here.  In this way, the work is less polished than Kawai's.  Yet, here in these new paintings, the incorporation of light, focused to a narrow band or encircling, magnifying an animated mark, Holland lifts us beyond the raw earth, beyond brute history, toward the hope of cosmic intelligence.  It feels like a sudden stroke of inspiration.  


Holland's work is included in many corporate, public, museum and private collections in the United States and internationally.  Especially revered in Japan, she has had more than seven one-person exhibitions in Japan in the last 6 years.

Shozaburo Kawai and Juliet Holland are two painters who share a kinship in their materials, their process, their calligraphic language, and their deep connection to the universal, elemental explanation of life.  But a painting is far more than a pictorial construction.  Ultimately, a work of art is a human utterance. It is alive and breathing. It is inspired. Both Shozaburo Kawai and Juliet Holland say what they have to say with that breathing spirit. 









©2007 Rena Lindstrom All Rights Reserved