Keiji Uematsu (b. 1947, Kobe, Japan) is a conceptual artist associated with the post-war Japanese art movement, Mono-ha. Over a nearly five decades-long career, Uematsu has developed a highly cohesive body of work that has consistently sought to make visible the invisible relationships between objects and the spaces they inhabit. In 1972, he wrote: ‘What I want to do is to make visible existence, visible connections and visible relations appear more clearly. And to cause non-visible existence, non-visible connections and non-visible relations to appear. And to cause visible existence, visible connections and visible relations not to appear’. The ideas of ‘de-familiarising’ space and focusing our attention on the natural forces of gravity, tension, and material attraction, whether through photography, drawing or sculptural installation, underpin his entire practice.
Uematsu graduated from the department of Fine Arts, Kobe University in 1969, at the very time when the new group of artists whose work later came to be associated with the name Mono-ha were rising to prominence. They proposed a radical conceptual practice which moved away from traditional forms of representation toward an engagement with materials, objects and their properties and it was in this creative context that Uematsu developed his artistic language. Yet although Uematsu came of artistic age during this time, his work is distinct from that of the Mono-ha group, influenced as it is by Western theory. In 1975 he moved from his native Japan to Dusseldorf. The following year he was the first Japanese artist ever to show at Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and he quickly developed concurrent exhibiting activities in Europe and Japan. His move came not only in the context of a rapidly developing conceptual art movement in Japan, but also of intense exchange between artists in Europe, North American and Asia. Uematsu’s international influence today is far reaching thanks to both his innovative, conceptual approach to art making and his global outlook.