Monochromatic, minimalist works that explore the sculptural possibilities of painting


becoming & dissolving


Norio Imai was born in 1946 and lives and works in Osaka, Japan.

Imai is the youngest member of the Japanese avant-garde Gutai Art Association and the only member to be born after the second world war. He joined the group in 1965. He was just 17 when he participated in the 14th Gutai Art Exhibition.

The Gutai Art Association was formed in 1954 by Yoshihara Jiro, Kanayma Akira, Murakami Saburo, Shiraga Kazuo and Shozo Shimamoto, Through their unconventional approach to art making, the group set out to challenge the widespread assumption in postwar Japan that rapid technological innovation would lead to growth. Their radical ideas and approaches to making art anticipated much later performance and conceptual art of the 1960s and 1970s. The word ‘Gutai’ has been translated into English as ‘embodiment’ or ‘concrete’.

Imai’s diverse practice spans painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography, video, and performance. An enduring focus of Imai’s work is his monochromatic, minimalist works that explore the sculptural possibilities of painting. In an attempt to push the bounds of the two dimensional surface and transcend the limitations of the conventional rectangular shaped canvas, Imai began to explore the use of voids, swells and indentations in order to convey ideas of mutation, dehiscence, and collapse as well as new beginnings. Working primarily with white, he explored its status both as color and non-color, using it as a vehicle to articulate ideas of presence and absence. Parallels can be drawn with the work of Italian artists Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni, Enrico Castellanu and Agostino Bonalumi. As Imai’s career progressed, Imai extended his explorations to video, often in combination with live performance and photography.

Imai’s work can be found in numerous public collections including Axel and May Vervoordt Foundation, Belgium; Ashiya City Museum of Art and History; The Getty Center, Los Angels, USA; The Museum of Modern Art, Shiga; Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts, The Rachofsky Collection, Dallas, USA; Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, The Miyagi Museum of Art; Osaka Prefecture.

Recent solo exhibitions include Severed Film / Jointed Film, Gallery Joey Ramone, Rotterdam (2016); White Event x moving images 1966 – 2016, Yumiko Chiba Associates viewing room shinjuku, Tokyo (2016); Clezio, Koi, Article 9 Norio Imai, Plus1Art, Osaka (2016) Norio Imai Solo Exhibition, GALERIE ASHIYA SCHULE, Ashiya (2016) Norio Imai Retrospective – TIME IN SQUARE, ARTCOURT Gallery, Osaka





selected works