As I spend time scrolling through my Instagram feed, I have occasion to "save" an image because it piqued my visual or literary curiosity in relation to my studio practice. Rather than having them sit in the "Saved" section of my profile page. I thought I would screen capture them and put them here as a post. The act of sorting through them and then re-posting them gives me a chance to revisit the images and hopefully pursue the ideas or images they sparked a bit more deeply.
As usual, I made a tentative plan earlier in the week for my gallery and museum hopping, but as always things change. After seeing a number of posts on Thursday night about the 10th Yebisu International Festival for Art and Alternative Visions, I decided that would be my starting point since the theme was "Mapping the Invisible" where there could be some potential discoveries. The main venue is the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum in Ebisu and I began to work my way through the works which were mostly video installations. Given that I had arrived at the museum just shortly after opening, I had plenty of time and decided to try and give each work my fullest attention. After almost two hours of wandering through the three floors of works, here are a handful that stick in my mind.
Gabriel Herrera Torres' "How to Reach God Thru Proper Exercise" single channel video offered a strange yet absorbing experience centered around a Polish recreation centre, dream transference, and color blindness.
The Cuttingly Fairy Photographs and Related Materials was by far the most fascinating work in the exhibition. I had not known about these photographs and the story behind them. From the Museum of Hoaxes website.
"In 1920 a series of photos of fairies captured the attention of the world. The photos had been taken by two young girls, the cousins Frances Griffith and Elsie Wright, while playing in the garden of Elsie's Cottingley village home. Photographic experts examined the pictures and declared them genuine. Spiritualists promoted them as proof of the existence of supernatural creatures, and despite criticism by skeptics, the pictures became among the most widely recognized photos in the world. It was only decades later, in the late 1970s, that the photos were definitively debunked."
The exhibition consisted of the five photographs along with various ephemera relating to those photographs, other fairy photographs, and research that debunked the authenticity of those photographs. As it turns out, the Cottingley fairies in the photographs were cut outs from an illustration book. Of the five photographs on exhibit, four of the photographs visibly included these cut outs. But the fifth one "Fairies and Their Sun-bath" was much more intriguing and ambiguous and which Frances insisted as genuine.
This analogue photographic deception that took place almost 100 years ago resonates with me because of the fervour that it caused during that time and how the images were widely accepted as genuine and that it took decades to discover the true nature of the images. Our current digital technologies offer the same dilemma in terms of trying determine what is genuine and what is altered. A century from now, or sooner, will we see the images from this period more clearly for what is genuine and what is altered?
Mako Idemitsu's "At Yukigaya 2" single channel video was interesting for me in terms of materiality. The work utilised high contrast film to provide stark contrast and abstraction to images from nature.
Natsumi Aoyagi's "Incubation Diary" installation gave me the opportunity to contemplate the presentation of research-based work and documentation.
I have mixed feelings about the installation. I do like the specimens or materials enclosed in an acrylic case, but I also find it inaccessible for the viewing audience. The non-ordered display of the acrylic boxes felt like a good way to move the viewer around the space. On the other hand, having the installation displayed with the back side of a constructed wall in all its unfinished glory was confusing to me. Seeing this installation made me think that I have to look more at the display strategies that Mark Dion and Fred Wilson have employed in their work.
The final work from the 10th Yebisu International Festival for Art and Alternative Visions that I wanted to mention was a collaborative research project by Natacha Nisic and Ken Daimaru into "itako" who are blind women who became spiritual mediums through apprenticeship. This video installation centres on the last itako, Take-san and her stories. More of a documentary to me, I found it deeply fascinating to discover spiritual mediums in a Japanese context. The works sits well next to my current fascination with the spirits and the after life.
From the 10th Yebisu International Festival for Art and Alternative Visions, I headed over to the National Art Centre Tokyo to see the 16th New Artist Unit exhibition and the DOMANI exhibition. I headed into the 16th New Artist Unit (also known as NAU21) exhibition first and I was struck by the size of the exhibition space and the size of the works in this exhibition. Over fifty artists displayed their works in this exhibition with most artists having a pair of works. As with these larger exhibitions, there is a bit of something for everyone. I found a handful of works to be interesting and lingered over those for a bit although most did not relate to my studio practice. My favourite piece in that regards would be Satoko Shimokawara's paper dress which was pocked with seemingly thousands of holes obsessively made by burning through the material.
From the NAU21 exhibition, I headed over to the DOMANI exhibition which I have not seen for a couple of years. Keith Mori's architectural drawings made by stretching thread and gluing them directly to paper, canvas, or the wall was the highlight of the exhibition for me. I had a chance to take photographs, but it does not do the work justice. The smaller works were what drew me in and here is one of the pieces that was in the exhibition.
Michiko Nakatani's negative relief plaster sculptures in the shape of "paintings" filled with layered images of crows or ravens that are brought to life by filling in the negative space with different transparencies of dyed resin were an absolute feast for the eyes. Her work had me thinking about how one can and should continue to look for new ways to apply tried and true mediums.
I spent a good amount of time taking in the work by both these artists because I realised that photographing them would not give me a sense of what these works transmitted. If you are in Tokyo, I recommend stopping by to see the exhibition if only for these two artists.
From the National Art Centre Tokyo, I headed to another DOMANI-themed exhibition at the Hibiya Library & Museum entitles "Artists Meets Books" with another group of Japanese artists who have participated in the Program of Overseas Study for Upcoming Artists. It is always good to see the gorgeous works of Aiko Miyanaga.
Masahiro Hasunuma's multiple Kinora works were a pleasant discovery in terms of forms for an artist books. The Kinora is an predecessor to the motion picture projector in which hundreds of pages are animated by turning them against small steel plate. The best thing about it was discovering a Kinora about Ogijima which was the island in the Setouchi Inland Sea where I participated in the 2013 Setouchi Triennale. In the image below, you can see a picture of the Meon ferry that takes you to and from the island and Takamatsu port.
I finished my long day of gallery and museum hopping in Ginza. Tomo Hirai's "Pottery Fragments and Reminiscences" at the LIXIL Gallery had me thinking back to my Memory Walks eggshell drawings and thinking about future possibilities.
From a few other stops which included Gallery Natsuka and the Tokyo Institute of Photography 72Gallery, I finished up the day at the Okuno Buildings. As the elevator was being used for a delivery, I ambled my way up the stairs and took a leisurely peek around each floor. On the fourth floor, this postcard announcement lured me into Gallery 403.
In the gallery, I found a series of photographs by Jun Sato whom creates patterned and repeating models based on geometric forms and then photographs them to create works like you see in the above left. As it turns out, the glass object on the right is by Yumiko Kimura who also uses numerical sequences like the Fibonacci sequence and other geometric and mathematic patterns to create her works. They are a couple who are based in France and have been working for years in this field of geometric art. I had a chance to speak with both of them and learn more about MADI community in Europe. What is Madi art? From Wikipedia,
"Madí (or MADI) is an international abstract (or concrete) art movement initiated in Buenos Aires in 1946 by the Hungarian-Argentinian artist and poet Gyula Kosice, and the Uruguayans Carmelo Arden Quin and Rhod Rothfuss.
The movement focuses on creating concrete art (i.e., non-representational geometric abstraction) and encompasses all branches of art (the plastic and pictorial arts, music, literature, theater, architecture, dance, etc.). The artists in the Madí movement consider the concrete, physical reality of the art medium and play with the traditional conventions of Western art (for instance, by creating works on irregularly-shaped canvases). Artwork of Madí movement appeared in eight issues of its magazine, Arte Madí Universal, published between 1947 and 1954."
There is currently an exhibition of Madi artists in Kanazawa and Yumiko Kimura had a copy of the catalog and the work in the exhibition was gorgeous. I will not make it up to Kanazawa in time to see the exhibition, but I am hoping that Yumiko Kimura can find me a copy of the digital version and I will share some works at the time.
My final stop was Gallery Camellia to see the abstract paintings by Satoshi Yoshida who was in the gallery and we had a good conversation about making daily drawings, John Zurier, Laura Owens, Ingrid Calame, and Thomas Nozkowski. I am feeling a bit of an itch to getting back to painting or at least more brush-based work which might be evident in my current batch of Daily Drawings.
A long but fruitful day of gallery and museum hopping in which I managed to cover quite a range of works and ideas. My next planned day of gallery hopping is next Thursday although I do not expect it to be as intensive as this past Friday. I am hoping to see one or two exhibitions here and there before next Thursday.
A few weeks ago, on a very snowy Monday night, I gave a short presentation at the 3rd iteration of the Canvas Artist Talks in Shimokitozawa. Despite the mounting pile of snow, I made my way to the venue and gave a presentation to a small crowd of devoted artists and art appreciators.
In the past, I had focused my presentations on my Memory Walks Project, but decided that I would talk primarily about my Daily Drawings Project, particularly the Daily Drawings Network installation, which I created for the Nakanojo Biennale 2017. My aim in the presentation was to give the audience a sense of my methodical and experimental nature in the studio.
At the end of the presentation, I was asked several thought-provoking questions about my work and the aims of the work. Since then, I have been thinking on and off about these questions and it has led to a bit of an artistic existential crisis. However, like all previous artistic existential crises, I believe that it will help pave the way for the next steps in my studio practice.
The Daily Drawings Network represents the first phase of what I have considered to be a three part project. In the Daily Drawings Network, I began to organize my Daily Drawings based on colors, motifs, and location among other variables. During my residency, I also included months and days as additional variables to add a third dimension to the installation. I also began to keep track of any audio/video that I listened/watched while making these drawings, although this information did not make it into the installation.
I view all of these organizational strategies as a way to organize my Daily Drawings into packets of data. Truth be told, the organizational strategies that I have taken up to this point have not gone far enough. I have 391 drawings from 2017 and I have moved forward with any of the above organizational strategies for the drawings beyond those installed for the Daily Drawings Network which means I still have over 150 drawings to add to the database.
Once all the data has been archived, my plan is to look for commonalities, causalities, correlations, and other unifying variables. These 3 C's all look at different aspects of unification. In discovering these 3 C's, I envision generating hypotheses about how I make these drawings.
During the presentation, I was asked about my methods for data analysis. Since I began this kind of work back in graduate school, I have always eschewed the use of any computational software even though the technology has evolved exponentially in the last 15 years. Rather, my data analysis remains in the analogue / Excel spreadsheet period. I perform simple sorts, quantify the data, and then organize it in ways which I think will lead to discovery. This hands on approach is tied to my desire to experiencing the moment of discovery as I pore over the data. Admittedly, it is extremely inefficient and tedious and has been a source of procrastination. I also realize that I probably need to improve my toolbox of statistical analysis so I can make more complex analysis that could lead to fruitful discoveries. Recently, I have stumbled upon a free online course for learning Python which is a general programming language that has been used for data science. If I look at my actual progress in data analysis in all my projects over the last fifteen years, it is possible that I may take the leap and see what powers I can harness without sacrificing the light bulb clicking on at the moment of insight.
Once the data analysis is complete, what is next? I have imagined that I would take all the hypotheses and insights and create an installation which depicts them in a visual manner. There is no basis for the installation since there are no insights to structure them on, but I imagine using the Drawing Cell structures in combination with the actual Daily Drawings. I also imagine the idea of using the different components to create larger layered/collaged works that would explicate those hypotheses and insights. Another question which I was asked at the presentation has become a head scratching one for me - what do you hope to learn from this process?
My answer at that time was I am not sure. It lead to the follow up question of where does it go after that i.e. the third part of my envisioned tripartite project. At this point, I am still not sure, but I have some strands of ideas that I could perhaps grab onto.
I started to think about the Daily Drawings Project in a conceptual framework when I exhibited my Daily Drawings and Memory Walks drawings for the first time at hasu no hana in December 2016. During the course of the exhibition, I had many discussions with visitors and gallery director Kazue Fukuma about the relationship of the two types of drawings which began to be framed as conscious memory (Memory Walks) and unconscious memory (Daily Drawings). Over the course of the exhibition as well as afterwards, I began to refine my conception of what kinds of memories the Daily Drawings access. I do not think either project is exclusively one or the other, but rather somewhere along the spectrum of unconscious and conscious memory.
The way the Daily Drawings are created speak more to the unconscious side of memory, although not completely. They are not automatic drawings in the absolute sense like Surrealist Andre Masson who "began automatic drawings with no preconceived subject or composition in mind. Like a medium channeling a spirit, he let his pen travel rapidly across the paper without conscious control." I do begin each drawing with no preconceived composition in mind, but I am consciously controlling the kind of mark I make, whether they be small circular forms or thin lines. Repetition is also an important part of my drawing process which allows me a sense of automaticity in my drawings. At some point, which is usually a physical exhaustion or change in environment (sudden stops, shaking, or someone sitting next to me), the spell is momentarily broken and then I make some conscious decision about whether to continue as I had been or make a change in my drawing process.
The forms that I use to create the Daily Drawings are purposefully abstract so that I am not consciously making reference to concrete things. In this way, I think it leads to drawings that result in imagery that is of worlds unseen whether they be macroscopic or microscopic. Given my background, the microscopic references my over two decades of work in molecular biology although none of the forms are created in direct reference to cells, neurons, or microorganisms.
In this way, I think I am working on creating a cosmology for my drawings. Each of these Daily Drawings usually represents one species in the cosmology, but sometimes they are multiple species interacting on a single sheet of paper. In that sense, these Daily Drawings can be seen as a developing taxonomy of my cosmology - at this point a completely unorganized taxonomy. However, the Daily Drawings which number almost 900 at this point can be seen as documentation of the unseen and records of discovery.
As I write that, this relationship between discovery and taxonomy is perhaps where the second part of this project is going. This is going to mean determining methods creating a taxonomy. I will have to start looking back at artists who create taxonomies. Misako Inaoka is the first person that comes to mind.
As the week came to an end, I took a list of the exhibitions that I wanted to see that were closing this weekend. There are a few I may not get to, but I plotted my route on the train/subway and headed over to Bakurocho to see Lawrence Weiner's exhibition at Taro Nasu. During a conversation in the middle of my gallery hopping, I realised that I had not done a significant tour of galleries in this area for more than four, possibly five years. In those intervening four or five years, the number of galleries has grown significantly and they are clustered close enough to each other for walking and eventually spending an entire day in the area. Here is a map that I picked up of the still growing gallery scene in this area.
I headed to Taro Nasu first and it seemed to be closer to the Bakurocho station than I remembered. Lawrence Weiner is one of the first conceptual artists that I discovered during my time during graduate school and he is well known for his text-based installations such as this on from 2012.
The title of his exhibition is "Water and Some of Its Forms" and this is the main work as you walk down the stairs into the gallery space.
As you can see, he has combined English with Japanese for the installation. To my recollection, this is first time that I have seen his work combine two languages so that their forms overlap. In addition to this piece there was another larger wall piece, but what drew me were a series of more diagrammatic text based drawings. One of which I snapped a photograph of below.
I climbed back up the stairs and walked next door and went to check out gallery αM in the basement. Founded in 1988, gallery αM has its roots in the Musashino Art University, but shuttered its first location in Kichijoji in 2002. Since 2002, gallery αM has hosted exhibitions by over 25 invited curators, each of whom explores a theme through a series of solo exhibitions. The exhibition I happened upon was Volume 6: Censure Karasawa curated by Yuri Mitsuda from the DIC Kawamura Memorial Museum. The theme of his seven exhibition project is "Mirror Behind Hole - Photography Into Sculpture" Here are a couple images of what I saw in the space.
Karasawa's work is quite gorgeous. The wood is meticulously cut into various forms and rather than leaving the form as such each piece is then cut open and then hollowed out. He uses paraffin wax to fill in the hollowed space to give that space form. He also uses the cross-sectioned wood forms and reconfigures them to emphasise the hollowed out space without the paraffin wax. The theme of the project is quite interesting and I am interested in seeing what Volume 7 holds in store as well as revisiting previous volumes online.
From there I caught the elevator and headed up to the 4th floor to Kiyoyuki Kuwabara Accounting Gallery to see a small show by Shoji Ueda whom is one of my favourite Japanese photographers. This gallery just opened at the end of January and is an accounting office and art gallery. I wish I could tell you more about that, perhaps when I visit again. In any case, there were 10 gorgeous prints from Ueda's White Wind photographic series along with the rare White Wind photo book. The images for this series were take with the Vest Pocket Kodak which were also on display in the exhibition. You can learn more about Ueda's amazing photography and numerous works in this Guardian article "Shōji Ueda: the most beautiful, surprising photobook of the year" from late 2015. If you ever have a chance to see his color prints, run, don't walk and just bask in the soft light and sensuous colours!
From there, I realised I still had time before heading to Shinjuku and that Jinen Gallery was relatively close to where I was. I wandered over there because I had been drawn to the exhibition postcard for Masahiro Imai's Historia Naturalis.
There is definitely Joseph Cornell being channeled through this work. The space at Jinen Gallery is usually split into two spaces for two person exhibitions, but Imai had the entire space to himself. The front half of the space was devoted to work that made reference to Dylan Thomas biography, famous poem verse,
"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
and the motion picture Interstellar. I do not know much about Dylan Thomas, but I have hear this verse often and even more interesting for my own process is that I have been meaning to rewatch Interstellar due to my revived interest in science fiction as well as my own processing of human mortality and beyond. The materials that Imai uses for these boxed pieces stems from his vast collection of antiques which he had accumulated for years with giving thought to incorporating them into his artwork. Historia Naturalis was the debut of these boxed pieces. The coincidental convergence of the story of Historia Naturalis and my own interests jolted me life. As I looked at the map of other galleries in the area, I had thoughts of venturing around, but ultimately decided this was a good note to end on. I hopped back on the subway and headed to Shinjuku to attend the opening for the Narrative Abstract Art Vol. 6 group exhibition at the Art Complex Centre of Tokyo where Michelle Zacharias was debuting her dust paintings. Here a view of her work in the exhibition.
In response to her allergies and pervasive pollution, she has been collecting dust from various sources, filtering them and using the small dust particulates to create pigments which she uses to create her paintings which reference wind patterns which have a major impact on the severity of her allergies along with the pollution in the air.
Along with Michelle's work, the 29 other artists offered their individual takes on Narrative Abstract Art. Here are a couple of other artists whose works I was drawn to.
Shohei Oyama - Click to see one of his works
Narrative Abstract Art Volume 6 concluded my gallery visits for the week. There is a small chance, I will try and see one more show tomorrow as the theme is of great interest to me. Otherwise, my next round of gallery visits will be next Friday.