Artist profile

Yoshishige Saito

Yoshishige Saito is recognised in his native Japan as one of the great abstract sculptors of the twentieth century.  His teachings during the 1960’s and early 1970’s at Tama Art University, Tokyo had a great influence on a generation of Japanese artists leading, importantly, to the development of the Mono-ha movement that emerged in Tokyo at this time and which has garnered international attention in recent years. Saito is considered of great significance to this pioneering art movement which included artists such as Lee Ufan, Nobuo Sekine, Katsuro Yoshida, Susumu Koshimizu, Koji Enokura, Kishio Suga, Noboru Takayama and Katsuhiko Narita. Instead of making representational artworks, these artists explored often basic materials and their properties by creating simple arrangements with minimal artistic intervention.

Saito himself had been largely influenced by European and Russian art of the early 20th Century, especially the Russian Constructivists. By the 1930’s, he had started to make plywood relief sculptures. In keeping with Constructivist principals, he saw these works not as ‘a relationship between pictorial form and background’ but existing as objects in their own right. After the Second World War (during which most of Saito’s works were lost or destroyed), he began to incorporate large planks and discs of painted wood into his work. The results were larger scale sculptural installations, which Saito continued to make throughout his career, such as ‘Continuation 2’ (1987).

In 1957 Saito won the prestigious “New Artist’s Prize” in Japan, and this exposure lead to his later inclusion in the Venice and Sao Paulo Biennales. He was the subject of numerous museum shows and was first shown at Annely Juda Fine Art in 1983. Saito was “a compelling figure in the historical relationship between European and Japanese modernism.”

Biography

1904
Born in Tokyo
1957
Won New Artist’s Prize, Japan
1959
São Paulo Biennale
1960
Awarded the Honourable Mention at the Guggenheim
1960
Exhibited at Venice Biennale
1961
São Paulo Biennale
1964
Exhibited at Venice Biennale
1964–73
Professor at Tama Art University
1985
São Paulo Biennale
2001
Died on 13th June

Selected exhibitions

2016–17
Taka Ishii Gallery New York
2015
T&S Gallery, Tokyo
2014
Annely Juda Fine Art, London
2013
Aomori Museum of Art
2012/13
Chiba City Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, Toyama
2008
Annely Juda Fine Art, London
2003
Touring Exhibition: Iwate Museum of Art; Chiba City Museum of Art; Shimane Art Museum; The Museum of Modern Art, Toyama; Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto
1999
The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, Kanagawa
1992
Annely Juda Fine Art, London
1988
Annely Juda Fine Art, London
1984
Major touring exhibition at Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum; Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts; The Museum of Modern Art, Hyogo; Fukui Fine Arts Museum; Ohara Museum of Art
1983
Annely Juda Fine Art, London

Related links