Toshimitsu Imai


Born in Kyoto 1928-2002

A writer representing Abstract Expressionism in postwar art
He started oil painting in Musashi High School, and studied as an outbound student at Tokyo University of the Arts in 1950.
In 1952, he studied abroad in France at his own expense and studied at the Faculty of Literature, Sorbonne University. While studying abroad, he met Sam Francis and Sam Francis introduced then the critic Michelle Tapie to Imai. From around this time, he also participated in the Informal (amorphous abstraction) movement from his friendship with Georges Mathieu, Jean Dubuffet, Jean Fautrier, Cesar, Paul Jenkins, Henri Michaux, etc., and worked as a major member. He established an avant-garde style which is full of dynamism with a profound matiere and a violent touch as it is. He mediated Informal works to "World Today's Art Exhibition" held at Takashimaya in Nihonbashi in 1956. It was the first full-fledged exhibition in Japan to introduce Informal works, and Tapie, Francis, Mathieu and others visited Japan. In 1957, he held a successful solo exhibition at the Stadler Gallery in Paris, and in the same year he returned to Japan with Tapie and other artists, creating a so-called "Informal Sensation" through public productions and solo exhibitions.

Since then, he has held many solo exhibitions in Europe and the United States, and has exhibited at international biennales such as the Venice Biennale, the Sao Paulo Biennale, and the Paris Youth Biennale. He returned to Japan in 1968. In the 1980s, he started the "Kacho Fugetsu" series, which revives the traditional beauty of Japan, and at the point of exhibiting "Kacho Fugetsu" and "Hika Ochiha" at the Sogetsu Museum of Art in Tokyo, he turned into a magnificent style full of Rinpa-like elegancy. Since the beginning of the 1990s, he has worked on the "Rough Waves" series, "Hiroshima series" and "Kogal series", which combine the Informal method with the traditional Japanese style.
In 2000, he was declared that he had a terminal cancer and had a few months to live, he held a [Goodbye Exhibition] in December of the same year.

What made Imai, an Informal writer, internationally famous was the oriental sensibility hidden in the art. The tones based on vermilion, indigo, and green are clearly non-Western, and Imai clearly captured the underlying Japanese traditional aesthetics and used them as a means of breaking through Western stereotypes. We could see Japan’s aesthetic sense that links nature and art, as well as Imai's upbringing inspired by his father, who loved traditional culture, calligraphy, dry landscape gardens, and ceramics.
今井俊満 1928-2002