The Mediterranean sea provides inspiration for Takao Minami’s “Medi”, now on show in Singapore.
At Ota Fine Arts until 5 November 2016, “Medi” features video and installation works by Japanese Takao Minami, subtly reflecting the experience of travelling around the Mediterranean and its sunlit landscapes.
Sharing the title of the exhibition, “Medi”, is its most eye-catching work Medi (2016), a contraction of the term ‘Mediterranean’. It is Japanese artist Takao Minami’s travels around the Mediterranean sea that provide the impetus for the work on show at Ota Fine Arts in Singapore, a non-linear impression, rather than the chronological, linear form typical of the travelogue.
The prominent use of an abbreviated name may be no more than a culture-bound quirk of language usage, but some other possibilities include conveying a sense of diminution, rendering familiar and accessible what might otherwise be complex and distant. It might also be taken as an etymological play, isolating the prefix to suggest some sense of abstraction, neutrality or mediation.
It is quite appropriate that this work and the exhibition as a whole share a title: its constituent video projections occupy an entire wall of the gallery, with no other works in its immediate presence to interfere with the experience. A bench is available, but the work’s comparatively brief duration of nine minutes and the vertical orientation of its video projections seem to suggest viewing the work while standing – or walking, as if in the midst of travels.
Due to the scale of the work, at least some of the artwork will remain in the viewer’s peripheral vision, contributing to the overall sense of scale, similar to the vast expanse of the Mediterranean sea. There also is a continuous motion in each panel of the work – consistently upwards for the most part – resulting in a vertiginous sense of being on the verge of falling into the images projected.
Rendered in acidic, eye-poppingly vivid colours, the subjects deposited into these vertical scrolls are frequently littoral in nature: running the gamut from clouds, waterfalls, waves, construction work, shepherds, fences, cable cars, boats, kites, to swarms of insects, compressed into the same, improbable plane – as improbable, perhaps, as the graphical appearance that the high-contrast colours lend to the work.
Despite the generally consistent upward motion of these images, the constituent visuals are frequently set at odd angles, at times even upside down, disrupting any attempt at orienting oneself relative to some stable horizon, as if travelling on a boat. Lapping waves might scroll over to an upside-down mountain range, for instance, forming some sort of chimaera of the two for the brief moment they are on screen. While the subjects in the projection are often quite recognisable, some finer details resist easy identification, forming a bridge between mimetic representation and graphical abstraction.
As opposed to the sensory saturation offered by the exhibition’s titular artwork, which achieves attention and accessibility through optical intensity, the two other works in the exhibition are spare enough to yield a palpable sense of disorientation if viewed immediately after Medi. Located in a separate section of the gallery, Light Symbol #5 (2016) and Shadow Symbol #3 (2016), at first glance, appear to consist of little more than bare incandescent bulbs on stands, each with a lens focusing its bulb’s light onto a spot on the wall.
These works project minuscule characters on the walls: the lenses, which focus the light, are clear as are, at first glance, the bulbs themselves. Careful inspection reveals tiny inscriptions on the bulbs, though such careful inspection more or less guarantees blotches in one’s field of vision from peering too closely at a light source. It could be compared to looking directly at the sun, returning again to the trope of travelling around the Mediterranean sea and its blinding sunlight and moving landscapes.
The inscriptions correspond to the works’ titles: Chinese bronze script for “light” in Light Symbol #5, and the Egyptian hieroglyph for “shadow” in Shadow Symbol #3. As fluency in these scripts is in fairly short supply today, almost no one would be able to tell their meaning without knowing the titles of the works, an aspect that imparts to the works a curious sense of muteness. Despite this opacity, there is a refreshing bareness to the work, an economy of elements that contrasts the sumptuousness of Medi and its colourful, moving landscapes.
- An “Uncertain Journey”: Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota at Blain|Southern, Berlin – October 2016 – “Uncertain Journey” is the three-dimensional manifestation of Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota’s explorations into and understandings of life as ‘a journey without a journey’
- Art to provoke: Japan’s irreverent artist Tadasu Takamine – artist profile – August 2016 – Taipei’s TKG+ Projects features an exhibition of work by provocative Japanese artist Tadasu Takamine
- “Yellow Peril”: Australian artist Eugenia Lim at Sydney’s Artereal Gallery – October 2016 – Art Radar takes a look at Lim’s video, performance and installation practice
- “next Sunday”: Singaporean artist Kairullah Rahim at Chan Hampe Galleries – in pictures – October 2016 – Art Radar takes a closer look at Kairullah Rahim’s diverse creative practice and his new work in “next Sunday”
- Photo Gallery: Singapore AP photojournalist Waong Maye-E’s “North of the DMZ” – October 2016 – Associated Press photographer Wong Maye-E strives to capture the humanity veiled by officialdom in the strict regime of the North Korean dictatorship
Subscribe to Art Radar for more exhibitions around Asia-Pacific and beyond