After the Second World War, Japan regained a liberal atmosphere conducive to the pursuit of Modern art. Integrating with the contemporary art movement that was prevalent In Europe and America at the time, Japan adopted a style of abstract painting foreign to their tradition of representational art. The most spectacular artistic group at the time was the Gutai Art Association. Founded by Yoshihara Jiro in the August of 1954 with 17 other like-minded artists in Ashiya City, Gutai strived to inherit the fine tradition of Japanese culture and re-invent it with the vocabulary and form of Modern art. Their aesthetic was based on the holistic use of the materiality of the medium, colour, and form. The period of activity of the Gutai group spanned 18 years and two generations of artists with the total of 59 participating members. It concluded with the passing of Yoshihara Jiro in 1972.
In 1976, the Osaka Governmental Gallery curated the Eighteen Years of Gutai Art exhibition. To commemorate this event, the museum compiled seven works on paper by the artists Saburo Murakami, Kazuo Shiraga, Shozo Shimamoto, Jiro Yoshihara, Sadamasa Motonaga, Michio Yoshihara, and Toshiro Yoshida into a collection titled Portfolio of Seven Gutai Artists (Lot 17). The proceeds from the sale went towards the publication of the exhibition catalogue. Another collection was also a compilation of seven works (Lot 16). Through the unconscious execution of Automatism, the artist's personality is freed from pre-conceived notions and can venture into the unknown territories. The brilliant colours of Atsuka Tanaka's enamel imageries, the rustic texture of linen in the abstract paintings of Tsuyoshi Maekawa, the collage of acrylic paint and video tape by Norio Imai, and the mixed-media works by Sadaharu Horio represent the concerted effort of the Gutai group to forge new possibilities and philosophies with their unique aesthetics. Kazuo Shiraga is one of the most famed members of the Gutai group. He stated that not only would painting-by-hand exert too much control, but overly-cultivated habits would also manifest themselves subconsciously on the works. Thus, he opted for painting with his feet. Completed in 1965, Untitled (Lot 10) was a classic work that is archetypal of Shiraga's style. Layers and layers of dense red paint morph into the accumulation of a turbulent vortex of indigo, cream, and bronze. Such dynamic brushwork transforms the colours into an organism of mysterious aesthetics. Herbst Berg (Autumnal Mountain) (Lot 11) is a later work that is vibrant and playful in the use of colours. The white negative space in the background brings out the rhythm in the piece.
Another prominent member of the Gutai group Sadamasa Motonaga began his career as an animator. Untitled folding screen, featuring a poem by the artist's hometown close friend Sakaki Bakuzan (Lot 13) and the painting Work (Lot 12) are typical examples of his idiosyncratic use of unmodulated colours in high saturation and of whimsical tones. Chiyu Uemae joined the Gutai group in 1954. He expertly employed mundane everyday objects such as sawdust and matches in his works. Since 1972, he started to incorporate intricate needlework in his artistic practice. The 1995 work Stitch 1-95 (Lot 14) investigates into the relationship between the physicality of the material and the flat surface of the picture plane. In the earlier work Untitled (Lot 15), he used thickly laid pointillistic brushstrokes to emphasise the mark-making process of repetitive actions. The accumulated medium brings up the beauty of the material. Using a wide variety of materials and working methods, the Gutai artists explore the uncharted waters of new artistic practices. Their distinctive use of materials, colours, and forms reveal the versatility of the beauty intrinsic to abstraction.