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Convenient Island
by Tokyo Gallery+BTAP(Beijing)
Location: Tokyo Gallery +BTAP | Beijing
Artist(s): Shingo SUZUKI
Date: 14 Mar - 18 Apr 2010

Tokyo Gallery + BTAP (Beijing) is holding a solo exhibition by Shingo Suzuki entitled “Convenient Island” starting March 14th (Sun). This is Suzuki’s first solo show in China, focusing on a series of large scale photographs that depict exquisitely detailed miniature models.

Suzuki was born in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan in 1964. After graduating from the art department at the Tokyo University of the Arts majoring in Japanese urushi lacquer art, he began working as a lighting designer while pursuing his art at the same time. At first, Suzuki exhibited numerous installations, making miniature models as a way of creating simulations of his final work. He soon became fascinated by model making as a part of the creative process, and began to shift his style towards photography as a means of recording this stage of his work. As the title “Convenient Island” suggests, the subject of this exhibition is Japan, a country constantly in pursuit of convenience. The motifs depicted in these works are inspired by Tokyo, a huge metropolis that embodies this quality.

Suzuki draws on the landscapes of contemporary Japan as a source for his images. He uses floor plans that have been drafted according to photos and other measurements taken onsite as a starting point for his model making. The models themselves are crafted out of a wide variety of materials, such as paper, urethane resin, acrylic boards, cutting sheets, clay mixed with powdered gravel, rice flour and fabric, which Suzuki uses to create detailed reconstructions of actual landscapes. Through the act of model making, Suzuki prompts in the viewer a new understanding of reality from an angle that may have been previously overlooked, imbuing familiar landscapes with alternative meanings. At the same time, his models also incorporate elements that depart from reality in subtle ways. By repeating this process multiple times, a certain delineation of that reality gradually begins to surface in his work. Suzuki uses a 4x5 camera to shoot his models, taking only one shot for each work based on a composition that he has decided on in advance. After he takes this photograph, the entire miniature model is destroyed, except for its smaller components. Suzuki’s act of destroying his working models embodies a phenomenon that is part of the economic activity (or political agenda) governing urban landscapes in Japan, where buildings are constantly being erected and torn down while the inhabitants remain oblivious.

The artist describes his creative process in the following way:
"I think part of the reason why I make miniatures is because of the way in which you can blow yourself up or shrink yourself down as you please. When making a model, I become the creator of an entire miniature world – turn myself into a giant, so to speak. When the model is finished, I become a dwarf by shifting my perspective to accommodate the miniature. As a kid, I used to be obsessed with pop-up picture books and had lots of fun with them. The feeling I used to get with these pop-up books is similar to what goes through my mind when I make these miniature models. There’s something positively uncanny about the act of looking at these photos that have been taken from the perspective of a dwarf. The models have all been made using brand-new materials and seem at first glance to be in perfect condition, but they’re really nothing more than a fiction. I hope these large scale photos of tiny models will prompt viewers to take new notice of the actual reality that each of them is based on."

No matter how faithful these recreations may be, one cannot escape the air of artificiality and feeling of incompleteness that surrounds Suzuki's models. The virtual world portrayed in these photos destabilizes our sense of the threshold that lies between reality and fiction, prompting both a strained tension and a certain discomfort in the viewer. We hope you take this opportunity to come and view Suzuki's fabricated visions of our real world.

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