It has been nearly 10 years since I have got to know Yutaka Hatta. Well, “got to know” may not be the right expression; perhaps I should say it has been 10 years since his magnetic energy has captured me. A powerful magnetic field is created constantly around this extraordinary artist. Just hearing the sound of word, Takefu where Hatta lives, reminds me of the tremendous energy this artist gives out. “Magnetic field” is not deliberately exaggerated metaphor and it is natural to use such an expression when one tries to talk about Hatta’s activities as an artist.
Many young people in this region find their own place within Hatta’s magnetic field; in some cases by being repelling force. People who visited from outside this region can not help to be overwhelmed by this view of intense relationship. Yutaka Hatta is not only an artist with lasting ambition, but also a skilled organizer, a strategist who is knowledgeable in ways of fighting and an educator with generous mind.
However, it should not be misunderstood that this magnetic field of avant-garde art was achieved in his life-time only. Hatta’s presence could not have shined as much as one sees in the present time without Shutaro Tsuchioka’s tutelage. Shutaro Tsuchioka was a pioneer of Avant-garde art and led the art movement from Taisho period (1912-1926) in Fukui prefecture, where Hatta based. I will leave Shuichi Tsuchioka, who is Shutaro’s son, to write about Hatta’s mindset as an influential leader, which is inherited from Shutaro Tsuchioka, the parson of charisma. However, it is vital to point out first that the presence of excellent leadership had strengthened unifying force existed in the local city.
Hatta’s career path as an artist started in the 1950s until present day can be categorised in four periods.
Hokubi Culture Association, the hub of postwar avant-garde art in Fukui prefecture, was established in 1948 by Tsuchioka. Hatta had graduated from the Kanazawa College of Arts in 1951 and became a member of the association in that year. In 1953, he had participated in "The 12th Sogen-kai Art Exhibition". Since then, he began to present abstract paintings which reflect the trend of Constructivism. It is unfortunate his artworks from this era can only be seen in published materials as references. Yet, for example, “Crowd 1957” suggests us credibility of the artist’s skills as a painter, which are proven by Cubistic forms drawn with strong lines and the surface painted with robust tone.
However, it can be said that Hatta found his own way of expression in early 1960s when he was beginning to paint abstract painting, then circular motifs have appeared. At first, those were a single circle or concentric circles combined with the flow of the paint which have the impression of abstract expressionist. For this reason, those paintings (for instance, “NON”, “01” in 1963, etc) remind us of Neo-Dada. Yet, by 1964, his artworks had lost the flow of the paint, namely, brush marks and evolved into a structure that consisted with geometric circles.
The decision to lose paint brush had delivered extremely unique method of expression to Hatta’s artworks. He uses pulp board instead of canvas and creates flat and smooth surface with coated by colour pigments. Then, draw circles by scraping off the coating while regularly displacing circles created by a pair of compasses. The topologically curved space was conceived by such precise and repetitive action with the exactness like technical drawing. While the artwork celebrates intellectual and sophisticated feel, the curious effect of moiré created by overlapping lines and distinctive organic feel of mass in the artwork can’t help impressing viewers.
The same method was adopted on the sheet of brass, aluminum or other metal, which were support for artworks. Numerously crossover lines portray not only delicacy but dynamism on the piece. Taking on very fine reflection, aggregation of curved lines depicts even mysterious illusion, whose method is totally different from that of the painterly shading.
It is possible to think that this visual fluctuation is experimentation in op art. However, considering this painstaking practice of carving lines on metal sheets, the surface he created was more than just a phenomenon on the retina, but must have been a spiritual representation that was carried out by the toughness of mind like a spiritual seeker who endures ascetic speculation.
Moreover, in a sense, this representation can be seen as related to tradition of Japanese art, which made simple pleasure of eyes, namely decorativeness into a grand thought. In light of Avant-garde art of the time, when people were preoccupied with importing isms from NY, it has to be said that his creative activities were indeed exceptional and solitary practice.
Next major turning point of his life came at the end of 1980s. Facing with difficult circumstance such as losing his eyesight, Hatta had rose up to the challenge of creating tableau.
In the series of artworks from early 1990s, titled “Flow”, the sense of magnificent space with flow is delivered by the defiant brush stroke led by the artist’s tactile sense and using surprisingly vivid primary colour at times. While devoting himself to unemotional methodology, Hatta is also an artist who is deeply relying on physical approach in painting and production of his works. It can be said that such two oppositional elements are giving rich depth and generous appeal to the seemingly simple artworks.
Since mid 1990s, Hatta has entirely focused on producing artworks made with Japanese paper. Methods are either adhering clayey paper pulp on the base while measuring its subtle texture or applying narrow strip of Kozo, from which clayey paper pulp is made, with fingertips. As a result, painterly paper artworks are produced.
Tsuchioka had passed away in 1979. As if Hatta had followed Tuchioka’s wishes, he had soon started up “Paper Works of Contemporay Art, IMADATE” and established “TANNAN Art Festival” in 1993. The thing he values in these exhibitions is the power of material from which artworks are made. Loss of eye sight could be one of the reasons for him to reconsider on the importance of tactile sense in visual art, but his awareness of the problems are not limited to this. The idea to set the materialism in the center of his approach towards art is a reflection of Tuchioka’s teaching, which calls rigid commitment for seeking possibilities of the development of avant-garde art in provincial area.
Hatta’s paper artwork has two oppositional elements, such as intellectual and physical. The delicacy, immaculacy and powerful productive energy are beautifully unified in this series of works. At first, Hatta’s character might be seen as a fearless and audacious, but when one get to know him well enough, one would realize that he is a man of tolerance and open-mindedness with great understanding of vulnerability and so that he had overcome the obstacles in his life and been able to continue the practice of art while keeping the leadership as an organizer Yutaka Hatta’s aura is the inheritance from Tuchioka. The powerful magnetic field, which is unique to this local area, is emitted from the aura of Hatta’s being and it is attracting us even now.