What Takashi Yukawa sees before him

Looking downward far and wide,
Hidden things thou dost discover.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, (1902). To Luna (Cobb, John Storer, Trans.). In Dole, Nathan Haskell (Ed.), Goethe: Poetical Works, vol. 1., Boston: Francis A Niccolls & Company. (Original work published 1769)

Julio González (Juli González i Pellicer), an old master of Spanish abstract sculpture in the 20th century, thought that what matters most to sculptors is the essential interplay between material, shape and space, not the pursuit of balance and harmony in appearance. Likewise, shapes and space are now considered deeply connected in sculptures.

With carefully selected texture of material and shape, sculptures influence the surrounding space, while on the other hand, the space defines and attaches significance to them. (Yukawa’s sculptures—made with a combination of terracotta clay and old wood—are impressive from that standpoint.) The appreciation of sculptures made after the 20th century, within which materials, techniques, philosophy and other various elements were innovated and redefined, is impossible without fully understanding the interaction between shape and space. In fact, perceiving the inseparable link between shape, philosophy and spirit are key to an understanding of art.

Yukawa’s recent works are remarkable. While examining his sculpture of a woman with a distant look on her face, I was overwhelmed by the mysterious and holy atmosphere that was expressed within it. Simultaneously, I strongly sensed that there was an invisible corridor right behind me leading far above. It was truly an extraordinary experience. This feeling surely arose out of the developed simplicity found in his forms by eliminating the extraneous, as is also found in the work of his former master Professor Yasutake Funakoshi in his statue of former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida. And I think another reason, perhaps more importantly, was that the distant eyes of the woman in the sculpture which seemed to be seeking after the supreme prompted me to do so.

Previously, I had referred to Eros, which I sensed was included in much of his work. In Greek mythology, Eros is a primeval god and the son of Gaea and Aphrodite. Most importantly, Eros is associated with human nature and all life—reproduction or sexual love. I still firmly believe that Eros love lies at the heart of Yukawa’s creations. That will remain unchanged. However, when gazing into the eyes of the woman in the sculpture, I realized it was certainly Agape love (the unconditional, holy, sacred love) that overpowered all of the surroundings by its beauty. It makes me wonder if the invisible path I sensed then could be the path that Yukawa was proceeding on after going beyond the expression of Eros love, towards the realization of ultimate, or Agape love.

Prof. Yasutake Funakoshi writes in his essay book Kyogan to Hanabira (A Massive Rock and A Flower Petal, published by Chikumashobo, 1982) the following (translated into English): At the Basilica of San Francesco of Assisi, my wife and I were sheltering from the rain under an awning by the corridors. Then, suddenly, a young nun ran into the place where we were. She was too beautiful to forget. Later, I could not help creating a sculpture in her likeness; that’s how St. Clara was born. My wife who was next to me, however, says she never saw her, that no such person was there. Looking back on that day, it honestly seems that I didn’t hear the sound of gravel beneath her shoes when she left. No matter what, I saw her with my own eyes. It was just strange.

Right now, in my mind, Yukawa’s sculpture that depicts a universal love that transcends its subject and Prof. Funakoshi’s story about St. Clara, both share a common core value. They might be seeing the same Agape love in front of their eyes.

Director of Iwaki City Art Museum and Utsunomiya Art Museum
Yoshiharu Sasaki