Masanori Toyoda

Like rain it sounded, till it curved
And then I knew ‘twas wind

It is like the beginning of a game; like the beginning of a game about being and nothingness, about form and emptiness. How difficult it is to put the first stroke of a drawing on paper!

Is it the right spot in relation to the surface? Is the stroke the right size? It settles into the white where nothing remains the same as it was just a moment before.

The apparently indifferent and at the same time challengingly waiting white page reacts immediately. A latent tension is created between it and the stroke that touches it, between the light and the dark. A relationship which immediately changes into a mutual dependency between the artist and the picture in the making.

One could consider this to be a meditative immersion in which he and the picture become one. However, one could also consider it to be a constantly recurring confrontation “with life and death” as the French poet and graphic artist, Jean Cocteau, felt and described it. It is, after all, a matter of giving life to a picture in which, during its creation, the artist transmits a breath of his own life.

Back in 1977, when Masanori Toyoda – a student at the Frankfurt Städelschule at the time – abandoned representational painting and eventually arrived at his first strokes, they veritably poured forth. They appeared spontaneously. They pounced on his paper as if they had been released from a dungeon, and resulted in surprising pictures of an unusual, floating vitality. His teacher felt that something was happening, something in which he must not intervene; and he let him be.

Perhaps he had been aware of the fact that not only was his student discovering a purely private, individual artistic identity, but that something else was happening as well. Masanori Toyoda had left the world of the East Asian art tradition for Europe, to learn according to the Western tradition. He is an artist of modern art. Is there such a thing as East Asian modern art? Is there such a thing as Western modern art? Where did he belong? Had he found a way, through his strokes, to integrate himself in a universal, globally understood artistic language which interconnects both traditions?

Over time, Masanori Toyoda called his strokes to order. He had to come to an arrangement with these new allies of his painting. He had to get them used to him, and he himself had to become accustomed to them. He had to learn how to deal with them. The only thing he could be sure of was that they were there exclusively for him. Now he had to start looking for his future path together with them.

With a delicately drawn line structure he helped his strokes to get hold on the surface of the paper; this also helped in finding a mutual balance. The aim was always to create a oneness between the drawing and the surface, between strokes and untouched paper. He was in the process of creating his very own, delicately constructed picture-cosmos. It cannot be called abstract, since that would imply the presence of something that was abstracted.

Thus the artist entered into a world where, over time, he moved ever more into his real metier; that is to say, he increasingly became a master of his art. With this mastery his strokes found a firm hold in their implicitness. In the meantime he had forgotten that auxiliary structures existed. His strokes now arranged themselves. Their seemingly random arrangement presents itself as if it could not be any different from what it is.

Everything that happens on the paper is in accordance with everything. It is an invisible network. It always offers a new situation when the brush touches the paper, and a new state gives rise to new tension; when the new harmony in the cheerful asymmetry of the little strokes once again calls into question the balance between touched and untouched paper.

What is always crucial, as already mentioned at the beginning, is the position and the shape of the first stroke. Apart from its location on the painting base, it is also the intensity of the color, the width and length of the stroke. Does it remain on the surface of the paper, or does it sink in under the uppermost fibers of the paper? Is it opaque? Is it transparent?

Color in dialogue with an empty paper surface; only strokes, nothing else. But in them one can find an entire world. A world which can reveal itself within every observer, if he/she is ready for it. These pictures thus make it possible to experience a maximum with a minimum.

The strokes arrange themselves as if it were the most natural thing in the world. They appear like petals spread by the wind to give us a touch of beauty along our path. They always remind me of an exceptionally magical musical arrangement by Tôru Takemitsu who took the title of his composition from a line in one of Emily Dickinson’s poems “And then I knew ‘twas wind”.

Peter-Cornell Richter, 2010