press release


Simon Lee Gallery is proud to announce a solo exhibition of new and historical work by Japanese conceptual artist Keiji Uematsu, his first ever in the United Kingdom. Uematsu’s highly cohesive body of work spanning over 45 years makes invisible relations hips between objects and the spaces they inhabit visible. The ideas of ‘de

familiarising’ space and focusing our attention on the natural forces of gravity, tension, and material attraction, whether through photography, drawing or sculptural installation, underlie his entire practice. Uematsu graduated from the departmen t of Fine Arts, Kobe University in 1969, at the very time when the new group of artists whose work later came to be associated with the name Mona

ha were rising to prominence. They proposed a radical conceptual practice which moved away from traditional forms of representation toward an engagement with materials, objects and their properties and it was in this creative context that Uematsu developed h is artistic language. In 1975 he moved from his native Japan to Dusseldorf. The following year he was the first Japanese artist ever to show at Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and he quickly developed concurrent exhibiting activities in Europe and Japan. His mo ve came not only in the context of a rapidly developing conceptual art movement in Japan, but also of intense exchange between artists in Europe, North American and Asia. The artistic context in Dusseldorf proved fertile ground for Uematsu to develop his conceptual photographic practice and it was from within this context and in relation to peers such as Bern d and Hilla Becher (Bernd was alread y teaching at the Kunstakademie) that he was encourage d to submit a proposal for the 1977 edition of Documenta. D ocumenta 6 project drawing shows two timber beams held in tension across the width of a room, their alignment offset, the means of their lateral support evident. In this single drawing, the core of Uematsu’s project is apparent. It is, as he has said, ‘to create a work in which the lack of a single element will cause the entire structure, the invisible existences of things and their relationships, to collapse like a cosmos.’ This investigation of “invisible force” gives this exhibition its title and connec ts the sculpture, photographs and drawings exhibited, dated from 1973 to 2016. A series of three photographic diptychs from 1973, Board/Man/Rope , Vertical Position and Tree Man I depict the artist using his own body as a sculptural element and reflect his interest in performance and relations between body and object, object and nature and three dimensional space and its two dimensional representation. In the left

hand image of Vertical Position a beam of wood stands upright in the doorway of what seems to b e a municipal building – perhaps an art school. Its form echoes the shape of the opening and reaches from the floor to around 2/5 of the height of the doorframe. In the right

hand image, the artist supports the beam so that its top reaches the lintel of th e doorway. His body and the sculpture become one; co

dependent. This doubling of the image encourages the viewer to contemplate the artist’s absence, and the force of gravity to which the beam is subject, of the effort of his muscles which hold it upwards. Those invisible forces are now made visible. Board/Man/Rope follows the same structure. Here too the sequence of the images is counter

intuitive, the resting elements in the first left

hand image are given dynamism, the composition given meaning, only by the presence of the artist’s body and the forces it exerts in the second, and so the eye returns to the first and sees for the first time the invisible force at play. A series of seven photographs Degree

light documents a performance Uematsu made for sli de projecting in 19 78 at the Performance Art Festiva l at Beursschouwburg (Brussels) . The performance consisted of the artist swinging a light bulb on its cord to describe a circle with his body framed at the centre. Using light to effectively draw in space, Uematsu creates an ephemeral form that appears solid for one brief moment, with the artist and object ‘becoming’ together. The circle, as a symbol of totality, wholeness, the self, the infinite was elegantly ruptured during the live performance, but here c aptured whole, photographically and exhibited for the first time. These remarkable historical works, alongside new sculptures and large

scale drawings, all reflect Uematsu’s ongoing enquiry into making visible invisible forces whilst also making apparent the influence he has had on younger generations of artists internationally.