Song In-sang

Strolling a Strange Garden
IASK Asia Pacific Artists Fellowship, National Museum of Contemporary Art Korea

Last February I met Ohishi Yasuaki at the National Studio in Goyang. He was immersed in work melting a black stick-shaped piece of raw rubber which he found by chance in the Euljiro shopping street. His new artwork to present in Korea began from this crude piece of rubber. On that day he showed me the before shots of his works one by one from his website.

His college graduate work Gawa, or Ring (2001) takes on an enormous-ring shape, which underwent a quite interesting construction process. After cutting a thick pine wood logs into the shape of Gimbap (a type of California roll made form steamed white rice and various other ingredients, rolled in sheets of dried seaweed), the pieces were set in a circle and covered with a checkerboard steel plate. The insides of the steel plate were burnt by feeding it into a fire. Finally, nothing was left of the steel plate except ashes and smoke.

This work was succeeded by Forked Tree (2003) that was made in the same way using stainless steel. These two works initially began from wood originally, but later disappeared, leaving only an empty space. The viewers are left just imagining its existence. While analogizing the process of its disappearance, they can recall the principle of the universe or nature that changes with time. These artworks pose a serous question concerning the meaning of being.

Seeing Darkness (2004) shows an exploration of interactions between objects placed in light and darkness. The commodity boxes of diverse size, form, and color are stacked up like bricks in a wall and luminous dots are glued to their surfaces in a checkerboard pattern. If switching on and off repeatedly at an interval of one or two seconds, two contrasting atmospheres emerge. The moment the light turns on, the stacked boxes are revealed as they are, while only luminous dots appear when the light turns off. This work enables viewers to realize the meaning of light by showing completely different states dependent on the existence and non-existence of light.

Daily Distance (2007) was made when Yasuaki stayed in an artist residence in Denmark. In this work a huge opaque plastic paper bag ascends and descends between a table and an electric lamp suspended from the ceiling. When going up, this bag hides the lamp and if going down, bowls on the table vaguely appear. This work presents time and space not seen in our daily lives and lets us perceive them. His work usually begins, building up the space of deviation by using everyday items. Such objects as a tale, tableware, and goods box are commonly found around us. Yasuaki brings about an unfamiliar scene by involving plastic paper and other materials.

Yasuaki’s work constantly questions the essence, variation, and revelation of existence between emptiness and filling, light and darkness, the visible and invisible, leading viewers to an unknown world through tempered images.

The rubber work he recently began in Korea can be understood as an extension of his previous pieces. Using easy to obtain materials, he sticks to representing the existence of matter in an extremely tempered language. 20 days after I met Yasuaki at the studio, I saw his completed works at a group exhibition. That was an installation that shows melted rubber hanging from the exposed pipes of the ceiling all the way to the floor. Some bears a chair shape changing with time. To do it, he involved gravity and dynamics as element of this work. Another work exhibited was made by filling raw rubber into the shapes of fruits such as bananas and apples in abstract forms and then removed the fruits after the rubber became hard. This process is akin to his earlier work of burning wood. They are made like bird-sized insects and then placed on a pole.

When viewing Yasuaki’s work, I recall calligraphy. Some contemplative language is sensed in Chinese characters written in the cursive style of calligraphy even if they are not understood. Japanese calligraphy’s cursive writing is similar. Its beauty seems to be in the level of ‘no-finality’ Immanuel Kant asserted. In Yasuaki’s work I was able to notice his artistic attitude pursuing this state. His recent installations are evocations of the temperance of Japanese calligraphy and the tidiness of a Japanese garden.

Seoul Arts Center Curator Song In-sang