“Time, Light, Japan”: Japanese art from the 1990s to now at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

The exhibition explores the cyclical nature of time through video, photography, sound and installation.

Art Radar takes a closer look at some of the themes and the works of art presented at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Installation view of "Time, light, Japan" exhibition, Art Gallery of New South Wales from 17 Dec 2016 – 30 April 2017 featuring Akio Makigawa 'Garden of desire V', 1995 and and Yasumasa Morimura, 'Las meninas reborn in the night', 2013. Photo: AGNSW, Jenni Carter. Image courtesy AGNSW.

“Time, light, Japan”, installation view at Art Gallery of New South Wales, 17 Dec 2016 – 30 April 2017, featuring Akio Makigawa ‘Garden of Desire V’, 1995 and Yasumasa Morimura, ‘Las Meninas Reborn in the Night’, 2013. Photo: AGNSW, Jenni Carter. Image courtesy AGNSW.

From 17 December 2016 to 30 April 2017 the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney presents “Time, light, Japan: Japanese art 1990s to now”. The exhibition explores time and light through video, photography, sound and installation from the 1990s to now. Drawing from the gallery’s collection, the exhibition brings together the works of eight Japanese contemporary artists.

Tranquillity in water

One work that investigates the role of nature is Akio Makigawa’s Garden of Desire V. The sculptural piece presents bowls filled with water, their curved bases resting on onyx pillars. The colour of the pillars evokes the red earth and grey-green eucalypts of Australia (where Akio Makigawa has mainly lived in the 1970s) while the dark interior of the bowls seems to draw the eye into never-ending depth. While the work was inspired by and created in the marble mountains of Carrara in Italy, it evokes the tranquillity of a Japanese garden where natural tones are blended with balance that can be found in nature.

Installation view of Time, light, Japan exhibition, Art Gallery of New South Wales from 17 Dec 2016 – 30 April 2017 featuring Akio Makigawa, 'Garden of desire V', 1995 and Tatsuo Miyajima, 'Region no 126701 – 127000', 1991. Photo: AGNSW, Jenni Carter. Image courtesy AGNSW.

“Time, light, Japan”, installation view at Art Gallery of New South Wales, 17 Dec 2016 – 30 April 2017, featuring Akio Makigawa, ‘Garden of Desire V’, 1995 and Tatsuo Miyajima, ‘Region No 126701 – 127000’, 1991. Photo: AGNSW, Jenni Carter. Image courtesy AGNSW.

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s pieces Bass Strait, Lockard (1997) and Bass Strait, Table Cape (1997) also explore the depth of nature through a study of seascapes. Implementing a documentary style of photography and influenced by the serial repetition of 1970s conceptualism, Hiroshi Sugimoto shoots black and white images devoid of human presence.

Although the seascapes in these two works are of a specific place, the images of sky meeting sea are very similar. The character of each work lies in the varied atmosphere and texture Hiroshi Sugimoto creates, each piece creating a distinct tone through changing light of night or day and the changing reflection of the clouds on the sea. Hiroshi Sugimoto chose to focus on the sea because of its consistent nature. He observed that “although the land is forever changing its form, the sea, I thought, is immutable.”

The passage of time

The exhibition will be the first time the artist collective teamLab’s Flowers and People – Gold (2015) will be shown at the gallery. The interactive piece responds to viewers with flowers that bloom and fade through a computer-generated interactive programme. Inspired by a visit to Kunisaki Peninsula in the spring, the work explores the importance of the seasons in Japanese culture and art. teamLab draw on this rich artistic tradition (including evocative of gold leaf backdrop and vertically hung screens) and update it for a contemporary world.

teamLab, 'Flowers and People - Gold', 2015, installation view at Art Gallery of New South Wales, 3-8 channel interactive digital artwork, endless dimensions variable. D G Wilson Bequest Fund and Asian Collection Benefactors' Fund 2015. © teamLab. Photo: AGNSW. Image courtesy Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney.

teamLab, ‘Flowers and People – Gold’, 2015, installation view at Art Gallery of New South Wales, 3-8 channel interactive digital artwork, endless dimensions variable. D G Wilson Bequest Fund and Asian Collection Benefactors’ Fund 2015. © teamLab. Photo: AGNSW. Image courtesy Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney.

Investigating questions such as the impact of human intervention in ecosytems, the work shows flowers that gradually bud, blossom and grow at different rates across the screen. If a viewer steps closer, the flowers start to wither away and die. This cycle of life and decay, influenced by human interaction, is constantly changing and although it is a cycle, it does not repeat in the same patterns, much in the way nature evolves over time.

Miyajima Tatsuo, 'Region no 126701 - 127000', 1991, light-emitting diode, IC, electric wire and aluminum panel, 300 units, 190 x 1200 cm overall. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Purchased 1995. © Tatsuo Miyajima. Photo: AGNSW. Image courtesy AGNSW.

Miyajima Tatsuo, ‘Region No 126701 – 127000’, 1991, light-emitting diode, IC, electric wire and aluminum panel, 300 units, 190 x 1200 cm overall. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Purchased 1995. © Tatsuo Miyajima. Photo: AGNSW. Image courtesy AGNSW.

On Kawara also examines the passage of time and our place in it in his most well known work One Million Years (Past and Future). Created in 1966, the works are a collection of books in two parts: One Million Years – Past, which list the years 998,031 BCE to 1969 and One Million Years – Future, which lists all the years from 1993 until the year 1,001,992. The work is a meditation on the passage of time and how we use dates to grasp time’s elusiveness.

These entries were recorded in 2002 with both male and female voices alternating to read out all the dates. It was the longest public reading from One Million Years and it took place over the 100-day exhibition of Documenta 11.

Since 1987 Tatsuo Miyajima has engaged with the theme of time through developing kinetic sculptures. The work Region no 126701–127000 incorporates 300 LED panels that seem to be counting endless sequences between one and 99. Like teamLab’s piece, the installation never repeats. Instead it exists in a state of constant change, like a living organism.

Koganezawa Takehito, 'Untitled', 2007, neon, chair neon, 78 x 127 x 125 cm approx. Art Gallery of New South Wales. Gift of Geoff and Vicki Ainsworth 2007. © KOGANEZAWA Takehito Photo: AGNSW. Image courtesy AGNSW.

Koganezawa Takehito, ‘Untitled’, 2007, neon, chair neon, 78 x 127 x 125 cm approx. Art Gallery of New South Wales. Gift of Geoff and Vicki Ainsworth 2007. © KOGANEZAWA Takehito. Photo: AGNSW. Image courtesy AGNSW.

Themes of time and the void also often appear in Takehito Koganezawa’s practice. Working across video, drawing, installation and performance, he observes the world around him from a unique and poetic perspective. In an interview with Hans-Ulrich Obrist he observed: “I would really like to see nothingness…So I am trying to generate meaning from an object.” “Time, Light, Japan” presents an untitled work from 2007, which shows a blue neon light snake over a chair.

Empty spaces

Another recent acquisition is Yasumasa Morimura’s Las meninas reborn in the night (2013), a series of eight photographs taken over the course of a night at the Prado Museum in Madrid. The work is a mediation on the famous painting of 17th century Spanish artist Diego Velázquez called Las meninas (1656). Morimura refashioned the painting in the Prado by posing in photo recreations each of the roles in the original. Both the original and the recreation explore concepts of the gaze – who is looking at who – as both Velázquez and Morimura stare out at the viewer.

Morimura Yasumasa, 'Las meninas reborn in the night V: drawn by a distant light, awaken to the darkness' from the series "Las meninas reborn in the night I-VIII", 2013, printed 2016, type C photograph, 148 x 167 cm image; 163 x 182 x 6.1 cm frame. Art Gallery of New South Wales Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation acquisition with support from the John Fairlie Cuningham bequest 2016. © Yasumasa Morimura Photo: AGNSW. Image courtesy AGNSW.

Morimura Yasumasa, ‘Las Meninas Reborn in the Night V: Drawn by a Distant Light, Awaken to the Darkness’ from the series “Las Meninas Reborn in the Night I-VIII”, 2013, printed 2016, type C photograph, 148 x 167 cm image; 163 x 182 x 6.1 cm frame. Art Gallery of New South Wales Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation acquisition with support from the John Fairlie Cuningham bequest 2016. © Yasumasa Morimura. Photo: AGNSW. Image courtesy AGNSW.

This is the first time Morimura has used an actual location rather than a recreation. He photographed the works at night after all the visitors had left the Prado, bringing to life the objects of art once the public has turned away their gaze.

Tokyo-based artist Yoshihiro Suda examines the void around the objects in his life-like wooden sculptures of flowers and weeds, placing them in overlooked spaces and encouraging the viewer to take note and look more closely. The piece Rose (2004) consists of a flower and a petal, a structure that can be seen in many of Yoshihiro Suda’s pieces.

Claire Wilson

1537 

Related topics: Japanese artists, video art, painting, museum shows, feature, events in Sydney

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