Yasuyuki Nakai

reverse of volume NMAO / The National Museum of Art Osaka
2011.10.4 – 12.11

Ways of Worldmaking

One of the artist’s roles is to give shape to things that we would normally not be able to see. For example, the reason that we cannot help but be attracted to the disquieting form of reverse of volume, a work by Onishi Yasuaki that was first shown at the Aomori Contemporary Art Centre in 2009, lies not merely in its aesthetic qualities but in the remarkable circumstances in which we find ourselves. Recently, there has been much discussion about how the democratic revolutions that have occurred in rapid succession in the Middle East were precipitated by the Internet. If it were possible to visualize this multilayered network of information, which though invisible is in reality a strong presence, the form of Onishi’s work – a huge tangle of indistinct wires created out of adhesive that seem to enfold some gigantic object – would surely bear a close resemblance. One might also see the work in terms of the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred earlier this year as something that embodies the mental state of awe we feel in regard to a natural power that transcends the human intellect or the sense of fear we feel in regard to the radioactivity that was emitted from the nuclear energy plant that was destroyed in the process.

This is by no means to suggest that Onishi possesses an oracular power. On the contrary, in gawa (ring) (2001), created by the artist at the time of his graduation from university, Onishi welded hundreds of steel sheets to the surface of a sliced log that was arranged in a circular shape, and after burning all of the wood, arrived at a work that resembled an empty metal shell. He selected this production process as a sincere exploration of the essence of sculpture. But at the time, Onishi had perhaps already come up against these fundamental problems by attempting to express the difference between a visual experience and a tangible presence. Though at the outset he had already started making art that displayed the structure of things through the use of metal wire, he was also creating works such as darkness thing 8 (2003), a series of photographs taken with a long exposure that depicted sparks produced by running a grinder over the surface of a steel box, and see darkness (2004), which displayed a variety of completely different aspects through variations in the light and darkness that were produced by affixing fluorescent seals to a stack of boxes. Following these works, in 2004, Onishi attached a fan to a bag-shaped polyethylene sheet with fluorescent seals affixed to it and created a work in which dusky light seemed to wriggle through a dark room. And after making a number of similar works, he received the Taro Okamoto Award for Contemporary Art in 2007. Though a group of artists who repeatedly endeavor to make works imbued with tricks of this sort might get sidetracked and neglect to explore the actual problem of the difference between vision and existence, Onishi remained well aware of such dangers. He responded by changing direction and creating daily distance (2008), a work in which everyday objects placed in a gallery with regular lighting conditions were covered with bag-like polyethylene sheets, which altered their expression by repeatedly expanding and contracting. In addition, Onishi replaced the visual effect created by this movement with a form made up of countless wires produced by adhesive – an approach that he later evolved in Reverse of Volume. Thus, passing through a number of stages of abstract expression led Onishi to suggest a variety of events.

The National Museum of Art Osaka Curator  Yasuyuki Nakai