Japanese design achieves emotion, connection and refinement from the minimum of shape, line and colour; Japanese ceramics have incredible beauty with their perfectly proportioned shapes, free of fuss and elaboration; Japanese landscapes bring the outside world into the home and place natural materials in zen gardens where nature provides a relaxing contemplative environment as a counterbalance to the stress of the modern world.
The staircase connecting the ground and lower floors in Blain|Southern’s new gallery in Mayfair, London, embraces this tradition – high quality and well-detailed materials create a staircase of great beauty, as is the case in many new galleries: the new Gargosian Gallery in Grosvenor Hill will live to regret that it missed out on such an opportunity, though it will have a new Richard Rodgers-designed River Café there as compensation in a couple of years.
Simple materials – stone blocks with rough timber posts connecting across them – can form a remarkable psychological and emotional boundary. How can such simple materials which anyone can logically leap over or crawl underneath create the unseen power of a strong physical boundary which is then respected, whether in an indoor space, as here, or outside? Kishio Suga, one of Japan’s leading contemporary artists is a key figure in the Mono-ha (School of Things) movement which uses natural and industrial materials to create new spatial identities and connections within a larger space. Suga has an ongoing interest in exploring the connection between the physical and the emotional creation of boundaries, which both divide and connect, as do lines in a drawing. His work Perimeter (Entai), 1985, on show in the lower floor gallery at the bottom of Blain|Southern’s beautiful staircase creates a simple boundary, but how does the viewer decide whether to go inside the boundary to the centre of the room or to walk outside it along the walls? How many viewers even stay along the perimeter of the wall on the fourth side of the room where there is no boundary but one might be implied? In some of Suga’s other works, he completes the square or the circle in a way where it would take no physical effort to move from the inside to the outside, but the psychological barrier is very powerful.
“I constructed Installation pieces, a format that has become quite common today, inside the galleries. I bring a variety of things into the gallery, arranging them and giving them structure so that they occupy the entire space. The Installations are never permanent and can be quickly disassembled or demolished. One might say that I create temporary worlds.”
A contemplative installation for the viewer to examine his own relationship with the simple structure.
On the wall outside, in “Plural and Buried (Fukusenka)”, Suga has hung a huge sheet of hardwood into which he has cut out shapes exposing the natural grain, turning it from a rectangular slab of timber into a beautiful work of art. Yet, all he has done has exposed the essential beauty of the timber which was always there waiting to be seen and, should the wood deteriorate through time, will eventually disappear, thus reinforcing the ever changing world of nature.