Exhibition”Création de la Lumière” at Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum for the 90th anniversary of the Franco-Japanese cultural partnership
Christian MASSET
French ambassador in Japan (2011-2014)
Portfolio 4

Mutual fascination for each other’s cultures has always been a steady feature in the relationship between France and Japan, in every artistic area and throughout the ages. This is due to their artists, who, acting as couriers and under the impulse of Foujita, have decided to settle in France.

Morio Matsui is one of them:  he settled in France forty years ago, sixteen of which have been in Corsica. Morio Matsui has worked tirelessly for Franco-Japanese cultural exchanges. He was present, in particular, in the French pavilion at the 2005 World Expo in Aichi and, he also held an exhibition at Chanel Nexus Hall in 2008 for the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries.

Life between two cultures has never been an easy thing: what does one keep, what does one accept? It was a successful merger for Morio Matsui who has always been fundamentally faithful to his Japanese traditions from which he acquired sensibility and gesture, while also mastering the western techniques he acquired at Ecole de Beaux-arts in Paris (1967-1972).

I rejoice in this exhibition because it shows once more the strong cultural bonds between our two countries and realizes his message of artistic dialogue and sharing. I wish him great success.

“Una Tarra ci hè”
Title by A Filetta
Video 4

There is a land
Made of winters that cry
A land where time doesn’t count
Even as September returns
Softly altering the light.

There is a land
Inhabited by troubled mountains,
Bruised hands and furious storms
Unable to catch men by surprise.

There is a land
Fraught with scorching days
And cold endless nights in which
Night, faith and hell
Are eternally wed.

There is a land,
Sea, invasions, desert
A land that reveals itself
Only when the barriers of indifference collapse.

There is a land……that’s all!

Hope Japan
by Philippe FAURE
Japanese Ambassador to France (2008-2011)
(Tokyo, 04-26-2011)
Video 5

Dear Morio,

I would like to take this opportunity to offer my best wishes for a successful exhibition at the 5/R Hall Gallery of Nagoya. I’m sure it will be a very special experience to exhibit your work in your home town.

Now that Japan is facing such a terrible catastrophe the spiritual force in your paintings has often come to mind, a force which will now have a symbolic impact on the tragic moments the Japanese are going through. The special light in your paintings will without a doubt be perceived as a glimmer of hope.

Yours sincerely

Setting a fiscal precedent. Morio MATSUI opens the way for artists.
Director of Galerie Bernheim-Jeune,Fifth generation of the founder’s family.
President of the Comité Professionel des Galeries d’Art

Years back Morio Matsui came to tell me about the difficult situation he was in. He was a young fine-arts graduate; we liked him, knew him well and had already held two exhibitions of his work at the gallery.

He had been receiving an allowance from his family while he was a student and being a young foreigner in France he didn’t know he had to declare the corresponding amount in his tax-return. The tax authorities had just informed him of the situation he was facing, meaning: he owed three years back taxes on top of the current year and penalties involved.

The art galleries committee had at that time already considered the situation artists face because of their lack of regular income. For example, they may be represented by or have a contract with a gallery, they might sell a few paintings in a year, they may organize an exhibition every two or three years and the gallery will promote them hoping their paintings will sell. When it works out, the artist who had a modest income during the year may all of a sudden receive an important amount and the tax services will request payment immediately. Our idea at that time was to obtain an agreement that would permit the artist to spread the payment of the amount due over a three year period.

We went to see the tax services with Morio Matsui and were able to speak with a very nice man who was interested in understanding the rhythms of an artist’s life. We had a relaxed conversation and I was able to help him penetrate into a universe that was unknown to him, to explain to him the importance of creating and the personal investment necessary to prepare an exhibition, the time it took.

He listened with interested and asked many questions which we were able to answer. I tried to convince him that Morio Matsui was sincere and had been unaware of the tax regulations concerning his allowance, he loved France where he intended to live and continue his art studies. We had succeeded in attracting a talented artist.

I pointed out the fact that after having explained the situation to Morio Matsui, he was aware that he owed an amount and was willing to commit to the tax services, therefore it would be a shame to inflict an important fine on him. I added that I represented the art galleries committee and would pledge for him. I had the feeling that he had a clearer understanding of what artists were up against and asked if it was possible to obtain an agreement to spread payment over a period of time, a solution that would be acceptable for all.

The representative concluded by saying: “I understand, I’ll do everything that’s possible”. He was able to obtain the requested agreement.

Artists Unions existed then but didn’t yet have this kind of authority. I am delighted that Morio Matsui came to see me that day because the decision regarding his case set a precedence the Art galleries committee can rely on when negotiating with the Ministry of Finances, to help artists spread their tax payments over a period of three years, especially after an exhibition. It is now a perfectly accepted solution. Artist’s needs were taken into account and this possibility is granted as long as they keep their commitments.

On a personal note, I’ll mention that I’m very happy this happened because it was the beginning of a great friendship that, as you know, once given by a Japanese it is indefectible.

Dear Morio,

The events that just took place in Japan are terrible. This country that I love with which we have had a great friendship and affection, a relationship that has lasted for three generations, is now in fear and sadness but with great dignity. Our thoughts are with you and your country. Sincerely, Michel

The “Jardins de Lumière”
Regional-director of Cultural Affairs in Corsica  

Morio Matsui’s work is a tireless quest, an esthetic and spiritual meditation on light, the messenger from the stars according to physicist. His first “Testaments” are created with layers of strokes of tangled colors on huge canvases causing the smallest parcel of background to disappear. Ending in myriads of pure white strokes the whole composition is illuminated, revealing mountainous shapes, “volcanoes of light”, reminiscent of the birth of a universe in which life is yet to be.

Then appear the monumental “Origamis” with their colors playing hide and seek with the immaculate white of the canvas. Here, Matsui tracks down light in the same way architects of cathedrals trap it within stained glass and block it by impenetrable stone walls. The artist covers entire panels of emptiness with great colored movements, hemmed with subtle shades that bring out the radiant white throughout the ensemble. Once again, it is light that brings to life a universe where one senses forms, thus, being accustomed to another reality, our consciences are interrogated.

The economy of means goes even further when light black traits like incisions of light on almost blank canvases give way to apparitions of impressive epiphanies of christs and madonas suspended in an immaculate light: the original white of the canvas. How can one go any further? Must all traces of the canvas be eliminated, all representation, maybe the canvas itself as with some of the 20th century artists ? Must one renounce to continuing the adventure as if all has been said?

The answer is in the artist’s “Jardins de Lumière”. He shows that courage and perseverance can overcome the most difficult challenges. He never gives up, especially to the difficulties he faces nowadays of renewing pictorial art. This begins by abandoning personal habits and techniques he has already accomplished perfectly. He decisively does the opposite of what he previously accomplished while paradoxically still being true to himself. Morio Matsui’s “Jardins de Lumière” are small in comparison to his usual imposing compositions. Totally present day, with shimmering beauty they differ from one to the other, each containing a powerful poetic charge, each being a cheerful ode to life and its mysteries.

Behind all of this we find that his greatness and humility smilingly reside in a solemn, enigmatic way, inhabited by a continuous source of splendors and his “Jardins” signal us, showing us the glow behind the apparent opacity of our senses.

Speech at the Chanel Nexus Hall in Tokyo
Director of Galerie Bernheim-Jeune,
Fifth generation of the founder’s family. President of the Comité Professionel des Galeries d’Art
Portfolio 2 and Video 3

Morio Matsui, Master Matsui, with whom I share a thirty year friendship, an artist who has always taken his work seriously and has structured it with tenacity. I have witnessed and encouraged his progress and he has achieved great works.

Master Matsui exhibited his work three times at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery, the first being in 1978, then last year when we were gratified with his masterpieces.

We are pleased to have detected a great artist in the making thirty years ago, Morio Matsui who was to take his place in a long line of artists such as Bonnard, Matisse, Renoir, Cezanne, Raoul Dufy and many more who have had contracts or worked with Bernheim-Jeune.

Painting in his studio in Corsica is a ritual, in a kimono with Japanese brushes in both hands and an alert spirit he plunges into his canvas. He places light stokes by the thousands, repeating the same movements with assurance as he creates optical effects of vibrations that capture our sight. Colors are modulated just like music.

Once he has penetrated into his work, he is able to touch the sky and pick specks of dust from paradise to place on his canvas; it is then that he is touched by genius and we are transported and enchanted.

We are reminded of the Japanese school by some of his paintings composed of scarce, uncompromising, graphical strokes with an occasional soft wash linking them. His watercolors are achieved with mastery, he captures light in a drop of water that he places gently on the paper preserving only the essence of things, he has this in common with great watercolor masters such as Cézanne, Delacroix, Bonington and Turner.

These are some of the reasons I’m convinced that Morio Matsui is an artist with genius. Today, because of the fruitful encounter between Mr Collasse, president of Chanel and Morio Matsui, a superb project honors Chanel’s premises. Chanel’s team organized a beautiful exhibition to make his work more widely known to the Japanese public and to show the genius resulting from a French-Japanese fusion, a man who, as a rainbow, links France and Japan together.

A Corsican Samurai
by Michelle CASTELLI
on the book “Œuvres récentes”

In this beautiful book of his recent works (1997-2007), Morio Matsui, a Japanese artist, says, “In my studio, having a full view of sky, I found the light that bears the colors and atmosphere of the whole world.” The first part of the book introduces the artist. He was born in Japan in 1942. He came to France in 1967 and studied art at the Académie Julian and the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He has been living in Corsica since 1998. The articles, written by specialists and the photographs, permit the reader to discover or to have a better understanding of the artist and his work.

“At the crossroads of Eastern and the Western art and spirituality, Morio Matsui’s art gives evidence of a fertile dialogue or alliance that exceeds afflictions and oppositions” concluded Jacques Simonelli in the article “Morio Matsui’s inner light”, François Rodrigues-Loubet commented “he shows both troubled and clear waters, man’s chaos, the cloud that flows down the mountain to the valley and into the sea from which it will be reborn”

Citizen of honor

We also find General Louise Coppolani’s speech given when he was decorated as a Chevalier de la legion d’honneur as well as the speech by UNESCO’S director-general.

The latter, Koïchiro Matsuura, evoked Corsica where the artist has taken up residence: “surrounded by the blue of the sea and the sky, a color that the master loves and baptized Corsican blue… He became a sort of citizen of honor… a Corsican samurai”.

The second part of the book shows illustrations of some of his paintings: “Requiem pour Hiroshima”, “Calligraphie”…”Printemps de Corse” describing nature. An abundance of strokes and colors are juxtaposed and are transformed by the artist’s sensitivity into a revival of nature that explodes into a thousand colors that become one in the end. The wonderful “Bleus de Corse” lead us into a whirlpool of spiral whites and a declension of blues.

Matsui did a painting of A Filetta and one can read the text Jean-Claude Acquaviva dedicated to the artist. His watercolors are the last works illustrated in the book.

In “Vue de Cruciata”, alternating horizontal blue, brown and pink lines, then blue again, infinite waves are suggested. “Les lles des Sanguinaires” and “Le phare de Capo di Muro ” combine a delicate brushwork and a harmony of colors.


I cannot comment the third part of the book written in Japanese which I am unable to read. It contains beautiful photographs of Morio Matsui by Jean-Christophe Attard. These photographs, whether brilliant with colors, artistic black and white or presenting the delicacy of the paintings and watercolors, show the artist working.

As we turn the pages we penetrate a strange and poetic universe that Jean Claude Acquaviva defines so well: “Your hand is implied in worlds without limits in painting after painting”. Œuvres récentes (1997-2007) by Morio Matsui – Artistic director and photographer: Jean-Christophe Attard – DLC Editions, September 2007.

The Haiku are short traditional poems consisting of seventeen syllables in three lines. They are evocative of a moment in life always linked to an instant in a season. How could we not compare this poetic expression with Morio Matsui’s work?

Three of these poems that also express as his paintings express are:

“To see the plains of light, you would ride on a butterfly” (Origasa Bishu)
“The after-war sky hangs in a spider web” (Suzuki Shinichi)
“Soon man will build a ladder to the Milky Way” (Hoshida Toshiro)

Abandoning our references
by Pierre DAIX
Art historian
Video 2

“From my Western point of view, what one should do when approaching his paintings is to abandon all previous references. We must allow ourselves to be drawn in and taken over, even in a large canvas like this one. Like Pollock’s paintings, we can say “all over”, because it covers the whole canvas.

We are outside of all categories, of abstract impressionism, not only because of the calligraphic strokes, but because the whole architecture truly invades us little by little. We are immersed and transported elsewhere, outside of our previous reference. Even when there are figures as in “Requiem pour Hiroshima”, the same impression is there, the same plunge into a somewhere else that little by little invades and transports us.

It is very interesting to see how he can go from an “all over” painting, as I said before, to more recent paintings that produce the same effect, the same plunge”.

Pierre Daix, writer and art historian
Picasso, the Cubist Years a Catalogue Raisonne of the Paintings and Related Works.
Biographies of Delacroix, Manet, Gauguin, Rodin, Picasso.
Other writings on cubism, totalitarianism and repression in modern art, Miro, Soulages,.

Worlds without limits
by Jean-Claude ACQUAVIVA
A Filetta

From dampened eyes escapes the glimmer of the East
When your hand seeps into worlds without limits
On canvas after canvas

Cloven silence in a lace outline
In hope of an autumn rain, your toil shared
Welcome crystal clear source!

From Moïta up high, the turmoil reaches us
The chestnut that fears not being
The color that for us you invented

I meet with your blood in the urgency of these verses
While your life probes the obscure waves of the Sanguinaires
Blissful fire, prime warmth

Requiem for Hiroshima
by Mr Koïchiro MATSUURA,
Director-General of UNESCO (1999-2009)

In Corsica, during the 22nd annual Heritage days, France paid tribute to the values of intercultural dialog promoted through cultural heritage. I rejoice in these festivities which, by being public, permit past and present generations to retie the threads of identity and memory woven by cultural heritage.

The selection of one of Morio Matsui’s works, created as a tribute to the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima, shows how art can be a messenger for peace and reconciliation for future generations.

The United Nations was established on blood-covered debris gathered from around the world. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary celebration, “Requiem pour Hiroshima” came as a solemn and profound reminder that the commitment for the construction peace in man’s spirit is an objective that needs to motivate us all. Morio Matsui has been a long-time UNESCO friend whose work is a tireless universal search for a fruitful dialogue between Eastern and Western traditions. I must salute the honor bestowed on this Japanese painter now living in “the island of beauty”, who strives to establish a new relationship between man and history through a bare and luminous pictorial language.

Heritage can be a dividing force when instrumentalized, but it is also a force for peace and progress when used for mutual comprehension. Permit me to express in my name and on behalf of UNESCO, the hope of seeing everyone recognize in one another’s heritage, a parcel of their own humanity, of humanity in general.

Legion of honor
Speech by General Louise COPPOLANI (division 2S)
Société d’entraide des membres de la Légion d’Honneur (SEMLH)
Secretary general (2002-2011)

Dear friends,

In a few moments I will be presenting the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur ribbon to
Morio Matsui but before doing so, I would like to go back in time.

The Legion of Honor was created by law 20 Floreal Year X to reward civilian and military extraordinary services rendered to the nation. Its military-civilian character was important to the First Consul who saw it as a leaven for national unity and did not want the award to be for the military only.

It was only till Napoleon III that foreign notabilities began receiving the Legion of Honor and as of today there are 118 members of the Legion of Honor in Japan but, as Verlaine said: “Art before everything”.

Many artists that have been awarded the Legion of Honor among whom: Delacroix, David (author of “Sacre de l’Empereur”), Ingres, Puvis de Chavannes, Millet, Manet… and nearer to us: Bernard Buffet, Jean Carzou and Salvador Dali. Our friend Morio Matsui is one in a long line of great artists who live in France and have contributed to the prestigious culture of our country.

Born in 1942 in Toyohashi, Japan, Morio Matsui went to the Musashino Fine Arts College in Tokyo where he graduated in 1967. He arrived in Paris after having received a grant from the French government and attended the Académie Julian and the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris (1967-1972). Since then he has lived and worked in France and at times has known difficulties but as he says: “Painting helps me during difficult and painful moments, when I paint I forget everything and fear nothing. Determination and discipline have never left me, not for a single day in 30 years”. Living between two worlds, two cultures has never been easy: does one belong to both or neither? Morio Matsui took this challenge and it can clearly be seen throughout the different “periods” of his work.

I’d like to mention a few of his amazing paintings that especially touched me.

Femme bleue – de 1967
La Mère et l’Enfant – de 1969
Le Testament – de 1985
Paysage en noir et blanc – de 1985
Les Maldives – de 1989
Le Printemps de Corse – de 1998
Le Golfe de Porto – de 1999
Les Aiguilles de Bavella – de 2000
Bleu de Corse – de 2000
Les Iles Sanguinaires – de 2000

These are just a few but I’d like to encourage you to consult the book “Morio Matsui “, published in 2001 by DCL Editions.

We might ask why Corsica? He was invited in 1997 and discovered not only the most beautiful island of the Mediterranean but also a friendly people so he decided to stay and Corsicans take great pride in that.

In May 2000, Morio Matsui was made a Chevalier de l’Order des Arts et des Lettres by Madame Tasca, France’s Minister for Culture who wrote him: “I honor people who are known for their artistic or literary creations or for contributions they have made to the image of French culture throughout the world”. Note that Morio Matsui is the official artist at the French-German pavilion in the Universal Exposition in Aïchi, Japan (March 25th-September 25th 2005)

On July 15th 2003, Mr Dominique de Villepin, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, wrote to Morio Matsui to inform him of his nomination for the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur award and said “I am happy you have been chosen to receive such a high distinction and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the remarkable contribution cultural cooperation between France and Japan.”

This high distinction is an official recognition of his distinguished services and we are happy to share this proud moment with him. I would also like to thank you, Master, for the honor of having chosen me to give you this award.

A rainbow between Japan and Europe
Director of Galerie Bernheim-Jeune,
Fifth generation of the founder’s family. President of the Comité Professionel des Galeries d’Art

There is nothing fragile in Morio Matsui’s art. I state that Morio Matsui is a master. One can see in his work the creative craft of a painter; the artist’s character and the way in which he masters his work while constantly renewing it.

He has his own style and his discoveries through his art are personal. In some of his paintings there is a bit of humor that reminds me of the Gymnopedies : just listening to them makes us smile. The second time we listen, we notice that there is something much more profound under an apparent lightness. It’s a sort of light that radiates from that first smile, a sprinkling of happiness that covers his work and transpires from it.

I love his work so much that I purchased several of his paintings for my private collection. They are gratifying to me, like Bach, Mozart or Poulenc’s music, quenching my indefinable thirst for something unusual and beautiful.

Japanese painters of this standard are scarce because it is necessary to be freed from what was previously learnt. An exceptionally strong character is needed to be able to express one’s individuality. I consider Morio Matsui to be like a rainbow between Japan and Europe.

Morio Matsui’s inner light
by Jacques SIMONELLI
Art columnist
on the book “Morio Matsui”

After his early nude studies at the Ecole Nationale Superieure de Beaux-Arts (following his studies in Japan), Morio Matsui created the series “Etres humaines” with its robust figures (1973 oil paintings and lithographs in which ochres, violets, some rare touches of yellows and profound blues give an intense dramatic atmosphere). From 1975 to ’78 blue landscapes prevailed. Morio Matsui has now asserted himself as an artist of impulse and metamorphosis whose universe is complete since 1980 with an aerial and telluric calligraphy (because the transparency is ballasted with humus, bark, odors and flavors) that today creates spirals and whirlpools to attain an ample cosmic orchestration.

During his evolution the artist was attracted by large formats. It took two and a half years to complete “le Testament”, an oil painting on canvas, 215x 470cm. It consists of the superposition of layers from which the original color emerges in certain places thus shedding light on the whole. The entangled lines that sometimes cancel each other are woven signs that turn into a man in movement, a bird, a forest or a wave; countless strokes applied one by one with the technique of an accomplished calligrapher. The ritualistic repetition evokes religious meditation techniques or martial arts exercises. Each brush stroke by the artist confronting the canvas is like the thrust of the swordsman, it comes from a seismic interior of mental climates, fervors and doubts, flexibility and the body’s weight.

As a result, he is able to create a musical rhythm that integrates a lasting peace inviting the spectator into a pictorial space whose organization obeys a profoundly natural order. The artist’s engraves his inner nature into the abstract tissue of the landscape. Light emerges from the works of Morio Matsui. The flow of light passes through the artist guiding him from a blank canvas to the final whiteness of timeless indifference.

In his 1998 trilogy, “la Crucifixion ”, “la Résurrection” and “l’Ascension ”, the bodies are blended into the white, entrusting the expression of the sacred drama to the faces. In his recent watercolors accomplished in Corsica, once again white is used to create a transparency contrasted by the intensity of the stroke.

At the crossroads of Eastern and Western arts and spiritualities, Morio Matsui’s art gives evidence of a fertile dialogue or alliance that exceed afflictions and oppositions.

Everything is in a permanent revolution and movement !
former bishop of Ajaccio, Corsica (1995-2003)

Corsica welcomes Morio Matsui, a great Japanese artist whose talent one discovers. He decided to settle in our “Island of Beauty” after having been seduced by the grandeur of its landscapes, the captivating Mediterranean colors and the spectacular sunsets on the Sanguinaires, It was great pleasure to greet Morio Matsui and to visit him at his studio.He told me his story as I looked at some of the oil paintings he did while in Paris, and those inspired by Corsica’s beauty and light.

What a contrast! Everything is in a permanent revolution and movement! Wherever you look on the canvas, magic occurs.
The breeze appears! The light penetrates and dazzles.

He creates beauty. The Japanese culture is characterized by a global vision of reality. Morio Matsui is attuned to nature. He yearns to be in harmony both with nature and his fellow human beings.

Soaked with spirituality, he discovered christ’s message.
Here or in Japan, he continues trying to find his way.

He adds new elements to the Japanese culture. My Japanese friend discovers his message from within and expresses it through an artistic and spiritual language.