Tsuruko Yamazaki

19252019 | Hyōgo, Japan
Tsuruko Yamazaki — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Portrait of Tsuruko Yamazaki posing with her work at the exhibition International Art of a New Era: Informel and Gutai, Takashimaya Department Store, Namba, Osaka, 1958

Japanese visual artist.

Born in Seidō village, in the Muko district of Hyōgo Prefecture (present-day Ashiya), Tsuruko Yamazaki completed an English course at the Obayashi Sacred Heart School just prior to the end of World War II. In 1947 she participated in an art course sponsored by the city of Ashiya and there met Jirō Yoshihara (1905-1972), one of the course lecturers. At that time T. Yamazaki was not yet familiar with J. Yoshihara’s lectures on abstract painting, but, charmed by his personality, she soon began receiving private instruction in his studio. Among the later members of the Gutai Art Association, T. Yamazaki was second only to Shōzō Shimamoto (1928-2013) in first studying under J. Yoshihara. In 1954 she agreed to publish a bulletin with the group of young artists who had gathered around J. Yoshihara. With that enterprise as an impetus, the group decided on the collective name Gutai Art Association. T. Yamazaki continued to exhibit her work with the group from the time of the 1st Gutai Art Exhibition in 1955 to that of the 21st Art Exhibition in 1968, and she exhibited work at all other Gutai-sponsored exhibitions as well.

From the time of Gutai’s formation, 1954 to 1957, she chose tinplate (buriki) and mirrors as her primary materials, creating works that made use of their unique glistening texture, brilliance and reflective qualities. All colouration was rendered with clear lacquers and lacquer thinners infused with dyes so as not to obstruct the lustre of the metal’s surface. Additionally, the tinplate was bent, mirrors and cellophane affixed, and stage lighting deployed, and with each piece, the artist was engrossed in the devising of methods to diversify the radiance of light to the utmost degree.

Following an encounter with the French art critic Michel Tapié in 1957, T. Yamazaki transitioned to using materials favoured by other Gutai members, replacing her dyes and metal sheets with paint and cotton canvas. From 1958 she focused mainly on the production of paintings, juxtaposing geometric shapes formed of distinct contour lines with manga speech bubble shapes and accumulated scribble-like tags in her work throughout the 1960s. Moreover, in using colours that deliberately avoided pleasant and natural combinations, she presented works whose various elements coexisted while simultaneously colliding with one another. M. Tapié referred to this approach as a “confusion”, but in their consistent quest for “unpredictability”, this series is connected to T. Yamazaki’s previous metal and mirror works – that is to say, those works that actively incorporated the accidental effects of light, significantly altering their physical appearance in accordance with the lighting of the exhibition venue.

After the sudden death of J. Yoshihara and the dissolution of the Gutai Art Association in 1972, T. Yamazaki’s artistic style shifted. It underwent an about-face in 1976 with the release of the seemingly figurative TITLE series of works, which depicted pachinko, super ball lottery, and animal motifs. Owing to the tremendous suddenness of this shift, only S. Shimamoto was able to parse the meaning of T. Yamazaki’s work at the time, but this bold conversion, too, was a technique unique to the artist, whose ultimate quest was for unbridled “unpredictability”. In the 2000s T. Yamazaki resumed the production of early Gutai-like works, applying dye-infused lacquers and lacquer thinners to tin plates and pursuing that glistening texture to the end of her days.

Mizuho Kato

Translated from Japanese by Sara Sumpter.

A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring

© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Linked articles
Linked themes
Discover other artists
Biography published in the framework of the program
Program TEAM: Teaching, E-learning, Agency, Mentoring

of Women Artists
& Exhibitions

Facebook - AWARE Twitter - AWARE Instagram - AWARE
Villa Vassilieff - 21, avenue du Maine 75015 Paris (France) — info[at]aware-art[.]org — +33 (0)1 55 26 90 29