Sachiko Shoji

vertical emptiness (volume of strings) / Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka Japan 
In Search of Critical Imagination/ Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka Japan
2014.1.5 – 2.23

Coming face-to-face with Onishi Yasuaki’s works, we cannot help but be swallowed up by the lucidity of his concepts and the overwhelming power of his creations, born out of materials that have no original form. For example, in Onishi’s Reverse of Volume series, polyethylene sheets are suspended from the ceiling using black adhesive (hot bond), giving the cardboard and furniture accumulated in the production process the appearance of a transparent mountain ridge. This structure, literally displaying the reverse side of the works, allows us to look up at the hanging polyethylene sheets. Encountering something unfamiliar thing or experiencing the unknown inevitably leads us to a sense of deja vu (knowing). At the same time, metaphors have no meaning to Onishi. He does not intend to reproduce anything. This fact leaves the viewer even more bewildered.

As Onishi explained to me in the past, underlying all of his work is, in a word, the desire to “show remains.” As for what exactly these remains represent, the answer is eloquently conveyed by an early work from 2001 titled Gawa (Ring). By arranging some logs in a circular shape, covering them with steel sheets, and burning the structure until the wood was reduced to ashes, Onishi turned the steel remains, embodying the disappeared material, into a work. After studying sculpture in university, Onishi found that the ultimate destination in his work was remains. Since 2002, he has made photographic works by repeatedly tracing the shape of a space or object with fluorescent-painted ropes or laser pointers to create a single image in works such as mountain room and two sights. vessels 2, which make use of multiple- or time-lapse exposures; and Thing of Darkness 8, in which he captured sparks flying off a grinder that he used to make a frame out of metal piping. While these works are photographs, they also represent the act of tracing the shape of an existing space, object or surface, and thus result in the desired form of “remains.” Since traces of a repeated act are etched into the work, it might be easier to refer to them as “traces” rather than “remains.” Whether they take the form of a photograph, or display aspects of an installation by temporarily appearing in a space, the works, engraved with actions, are Onishi’s “sculptures.” Thus, in the new adhesive-based style he has developed in recent years, the adhesive was necessary not for its function of connecting two things together, but for visualizing the traces/remains of action and time in the production process. In fact, adhesive seems to be the optimal material. The characteristically and mind-numbingly repetitious work Onishi performs and the accumulation of time involved in stamping the lines of adhesive into his works are brilliantly expressed through his choice of materials. Moreover, by adding uncontrollable elements like burning, gravity, and crystallization, Onishi arrives at a creative expression that exceeds his imagination.

The work vertical emptiness (volume of strings), included in this exhibition, was first shown as part of the vertical emptiness series at Kyoto Art Center in the summer of 2013. In the Kyoto exhibit, tree branches were suspended from the ceiling with transparent adhesive hanging down from them to make a connection with the ground. The urea sprayed over the structure crystalized and created a white world resembling a snowscape. In the massive vertical emptiness (volume of strings) in this exhibition, transparent adhesive droops down to cover countless braided vinyl ropes hanging from the ceiling, and are in turn enveloped in urea crystals. The traces/remains of innumerable actions extend down to eye level and are expressed through lines and gaps. The work provides a visual experience that would be unthinkable in a normal sculpture, allowing us to peer into the back of the structure between the gaps from, as Onishi puts it, a “fly’s view.” In untitled, created by coating boards with black adhesive, the adhesive vividly etches traces of Onishi’s actions into the work. In contrast to the sculptures in the vertical emptiness series, which temporarily appear and then disappear after a fixed period, this work, which accumulates more black adhesive and graphite each time it is shown, retains its shape as remains while also constantly changing.

Fukuoka Art Museum Curator Sachiko SHOJI