Onishi Gallery is proud to present land[e]scape featuring 14 Contemporary Japanese artists.
Japanese artists have turned to their natural and manmade environments for inspiration for
countless centuries, and in so doing, have made landscape painting and photography a
constant in Japanese art production. Many have studied the traditional techniques of painting
landscapes in ink or in vibrant colors, replicating-
yet ever furthering the concepts of-those
artists that came before them. However, many contemporary artists have made a conscious
decision to move away from traditional tropes in favor of the radically fresh and intellectually
stimulating project of deconstructing the notion of landscape portraiture altogether. They thus create a new vision of their surrounding environs, challenging the viewer to imagine alternate universes where geography, line and form meld into new aesthetic territory. Theirs is a landscape portraiture that escapes tradition and blazes new trails into the realms of fantasy and theory. The artists included here are academic in their approach to their environments, and their work reflects their experimentations with vision and positions vis a vis the physical world.
Some of the artists represented in land[e]scape use the traditional medium of paint to realize their new ideas on landscape. Shingo Francis is interested in the concept of the horizon in his work, and he boils it down to simple lines in his signature use of blue, or explodes it in bright bursts of color in a series of gouache on paper works, one of which is included here. Kenji Hirata has developed his own vocabulary on the topic of terrain using curving forms painted in brightly hued colors; his landscapes become dream-like zones influenced by video games and Op Art in equal sway. Shigeno Ichimura textures his canvases with heavy dobs of silver paint, or in his contribution here, actually fixes handmade tin spheres to the picture surface, creating a whimsical minefield of metallic forms. Yoshiaki Mochizuki analyzes space in relation to the viewer’s movement by laying down gold leaf on board, then burnishing the surface with hundreds of lines to give the work a faceted, reflective sheen. Juri Morioka is an intuitive colorist of exceptional skill, and she uses a most vivid palette to create abstract urban settings that reference places she has visited, or fantasy realms that she hopes to encounter. Tadashi Moriyama creates hyper-populated landscapes of the future with his landscape watercolors and animations of suburban enclaves sprouting hundreds of houses built directly next to one another that reference the claustrophobic living conditions of Japan or any large urban area in the world. Manika Nagare balances atop the line between abstraction and figuration in her colorful landscapes of the imagination which often take her to places that can never exist in real life. Hiroko Ohno was trained as a traditional painter in the Japanese style, but her new works conflate the ideas of tradition in favor of powerful contemporary images of places she has visited or, as in the screen displayed here, of the cosmos beyond. Finally, Mizue Sawano often paints powerful portraits of cherry trees, a constant presence on the Japanese landscape, but her painterly hand gives her trees an ephemeral presence that makes them appear ready to fade away at any time.
Other artists in the show use drawing, sculpture or photography to build their conceptual worlds. Futoshi Miyagi, a photographer from Okinawa, often asks strangers for assistance in developing his works, as seen here in a series of photographs he took in an attempt to recreate his unknown collaborators’ most memorable ” scape.” Sculptor Keiko Miyamori casts actual tree root systems in large resin blocks measuring 7 feet square; here she shows three small studies for these mammoth landscapes frozen in time. NATSU makes seductively enchanting sculptures out of multi-colored beads in the form of conceptual chandeliers that become microcosms of the world; here her work houses the tree of life enshrined within an orb made of clear beads. Eiji Sumi draws incredibly complex scenes of actual places he has visited in cities around the world, including New York and Amsterdam, in one long connected line, an effect that gives the images a tension-ridden feeling of instability in excess. Aki Yamamoto uses felt to craft soft-sculptures in bright colors that, once installed, become floating clouds, organic forms or, as she calls them, little monsters that populate the gallery space.
No matter their medium, the artists included in land [e]scape are all dedicated to the idea of moving the concept of landscape portraiture to a theoretical plain. Through deconstructing, reforming and destabilizing the ground upon which they stand, they create a new vocabulary, and indeed a new vision, on space and the ways we inhabit it.