Two of my oldest pieces #1 and #2 have been added to my site. I remember starting to work on #2 while I was in the graduate program at University of Maryland in 1995. I remember continuing to work on it at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Although the pieces were added to the sculpture section at the site, when I started to work on them I had no ambition of embarking on making “sculptures”. I was merely moved by phenomenon after phenomenon appearing and disappearing on the work surfaces. I was interested in an object-like quality—as opposed to a window to look into an illusionistic-paint scape. I was taken by texture, scratch marks, peeled paint and chunky paint blobs. Instead of working on canvas, I started to work on wood panels (hollow core doors were cut into appropriate sizes with the ends refinished) so that I could dig into them, staple them, bore holes and bang on them. I also built the surface with burlap and plaster for more texture. The layers and my improvisation on them revealed many intriguing visual narratives. It completely captivated me that I could speak with my work. #1 was documented with slide film so it has the soft, grainy look. Remember shooting slides, making dupes and sending them out? All the rejection letters? Lol.
#1, plaster, tar and wood, 24″ x 19″, 1995
#1 detail view
#2, acrylic, burlap, enamel, plaster, tar and staple, 36″ x 36″, 1995
#2 detail view
#1 detail view
I’ve started making a new large sculpture a few months ago. It’s still at a planing stage but I am quite excited about the it. Making #82 taught me a lot in terms of the material and how to express two dimensional drawing as a three dimensional object. Right now, I’m still struggling with a model. Here is a drawing of it.
I was so frustrated with this one that when I finished it the sense of relief overwhelmed my sense of accomplishment. But it’s always profound to capture something indescribable speaking so decisively. Practicing art making gives us courage to face the unknown, embrace it and appreciate it. If there is truly an essential meaning in “art education”, that’s what we can offer—to see the world for what it is, with the unknown, complexity, bigger dynamics, smaller dynamics, layers, interconnectedness and all to be constructive. Such an angle helps us to be a part of harmony for all, instead of a part of exploitation and subjugation for few.
Each artist has his or her own focus in one’s own visual expression. The paths we pave in pursuing our practices in our studios define our angles, aims and results. While we go separate paths, we also have the ability to share and talk about what we do with our own vocabularies, which are usually exchangeable in our conversations because we go through similar problems in our material reality.
In a way, we the artists have our own language that allows us to share our most intimate struggle, joy, surprise, sense of accomplishment and so on.
Such a discussion can engage us deeply regardless of our backgrounds. We get to face each other as artists—as those who attempt to capture the essence of life as mortal humans with limited human capacities.
How does Phyllida Barlow’s sculpture embrace our perception with such an intense grip? How does she let the materials go so wild, yet manage to come out with a resounding wholeness? I can tell that she has a very different approach than mine. It’s so fascinating that there are so many paths to get to those familiar unknown places to which we strive to arrive somehow.
Images from Phyllida Barlow exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, 14 Nov – 22 Dec 2018, New York, 22nd Street
Here is the 7th Piezography print. I’ve struggled quite a bit but I am very happy with how it turned out. The whole struggle with the print project is to express subtlety, gentleness, warmth, tangible mass of black emerging from actual ink hitting the paper as opposed to how we perceive the image on screen. Doing so with a digital software is certainly a challenge that requires more time and trials and errors. It has been very rewarding and educational, and very much humbling as well.
I had an opportunity to talk about being an immigrant, Japan, our society, politics and so on with Jeff J Brown. I think the interview turned out to be a very good one. I got to talk about making art as well.
Here is an excerpt:
“I think corporal punishment given to school kids when I was growing up in Japan taught me how a hierarchical order can be maintained for the sake of having the order. The resulting order can operate without meeting the needs and desires of subject populations, sort of like schools or prisons. And capitalist society also maintains itself by economic punishment. What’s prominent about an order maintained by fear, threats, violence and so on, is that it forms itself regardless of each individual’s intrinsic connection to self, to others, to communities, to nature and so on. It is a way to form a social structure, but it is also an effective way to detach subject populations from their true human nature. This is a crucial step in commodifying basic human rights to be turned into profit. This is why capitalism is so effective in forming and perpetuating a hierarchical order while dehumanizing the population drastically, without even their knowledge. I think we as a species should be able to do better than that. The survival of our species depends on it, I think.
Also, the art making process has taught me that in order to come up with a profound solution for a given work, one needs a certain amount of humility, ability to observe elements, openness to accept change, willingness to trust, accept unknown elements, patience to learn the systematic mechanism and so on. These conditions often contradict each other, and they push and pull each other in the process, however, the key to grasping a working mechanism is to understand how the elements act according to their intrinsic characters and their guiding rules. They do not come to a profound formation according to the punitive measures of a master mind. I mean, I can just chop up my canvas and sell them as materials, but that would not realize the potential of the elements. So, what I sense is that we need to incorporate that sort of building process in our society, which truly accounts for the needs of the people, in order to go beyond the neo-feudal hierarchy of exploitation and subjugation. The harmonious whole, with its meaningful mechanism to move our beings does not result from an authoritative coercion. Having honest dialogues with facts placed in objective historical contexts can be a good start for us, I believe. As an artist I can feel that there would be profound results waiting for us.”