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James Cohan Gallery, Shanghai
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Hiraki Sawa
by James Cohan Gallery, Shanghai
Location: James Cohan Gallery, Shanghai
Artist(s): Hiraki SAWA
Date: 25 Apr - 6 Jun 2015

James Cohan Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Japanese-born, London-based artist Hiraki Sawa, running from April 25 to June 6. This is Sawa’s fourth solo exhibition with the gallery, and his first solo show in Shanghai. A reception for the artist will take place on Saturday, April 25 from 6 – 8 PM.
Hiraki Sawa’s videos explore psychological landscapes, unexpected worlds and the interweaving of domestic and imaginary spaces. Populated with animals, inanimate objects and people, his characters search for their ‘place’ in the universe as he explores ideas of memory, displacement and migration. Two major recent works will be on view: Lineament (2012), the central installation, is an immersive video and sound piece originally commissioned by the Shiseido Gallery, Tokyo. This work is a continuation of the series Figment, a larger project initiated in 2009, which comprises three ambitious and increasingly surreal videos about the phenomenon of amnesia. The series takes its inspiration from, and is an ongoing means of processing, the sudden-onset and complete memory loss of one of the artist’s friends.
Lineament is a two-channel audiovisual installation in which a male protagonist navigates a white apartment. Intricate clock-like mechanisms appear before and around him, suggesting how memories unravel and snap back together. The grooves of an LP record uncoil to become an animated line, then travel around in this liberated but perhaps indecipherable form. The audio— performed by Dale Berning and Ute Kanngiesser— is a palindrome, with a modified turntable in the gallery space playing a vinyl record forward and then backwards. In his catalogue essay “The Line Describes a Circle,” Tom Morton writes that “in common usage, the English word ‘lineament’ refers to a line that describes an object, often a human face or body. In its more specific geological usage, however, it refers to a topographical feature on the surface of the earth that indicates an underlying fault or fracture. Lineament is a film about what happens to an individual when his internal narrative is erased. At first glance, the boy appears unchanged by his sudden bout of amnesia, but surely, his outer contours betray a subcutaneous breach.”
Also on view will be Envelope (2014), a single-channel installation that premiered at Sawa’s exhibition at Opera City in Tokyo last year. It shows a woman in a white dress performing private ritualistic actions—bowing to the viewer, swaying back and forth, lighting and then blowing out a candle, breaking a teacup. All of this takes place in the confines of a small square gray room. At times the image of the woman multiples, doubling or tripling, sometimes ghost-like or like a mysterious identical twin sister. Three mirrors facing the vertical projection reflect the video image, merging the exterior world with the image world; the title of the work and credits appear in reverse in the beginning and at the end of the film, suggesting a threshold between worlds: the mirror images over direct experience and the power of reflection both literally and metaphorically. Envelope with its sequence of nuanced, symbolic actions combined with the pensive solo piano soundtrack, its melody gently staccato, brings to mind 17th-century Vanitas paintings with their reference to the passage of time, change, and life’s inevitability.
With each new work, Sawa telegraphs more refined themes to his practice. Among them are the trickery and gifts of memory, the way time can pass at different speeds, and the tightly woven relationship between objects and emotional cues. Whether zooming in to microscopic details and subtle gestures in a work or zooming out to the monolithic effort of a career, Sawa’s overall enterprise coheres both formally and thematically. Looping, meditative acts of repetition, patience and close observation are essential tools in understanding the way that memory works.
Hiraki Sawa was born in Ishikawa, Japan. His recent solo exhibitions include Lineament, Shiseido Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (2012); Other Dwellings, Kresge Art Museum, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI (2011); Carrousel, Musée des Beaux-Artset d'Archéologie and the Musée du Temps in Besançon, France (2010); Hiraki Sawa, Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME (2008); and Hako, Chisenhale Gallery, London, UK (2007). His works are included in important museum collections such as the UCLA Hammer Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX; the Detroit Institute of Art, MI; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Castilla y Leon, Spain; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA. Since 2002, Sawa has been included in major international exhibitions such as The Dissolve, SITE Santa Fe Eighth International Biennial (2010); The 17th Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, Australia (2010); The 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT6), Brisbane, Australia (2009); the Sea Art Festival, Busan Biennale, South Korea (2008); and the 7th Biennale de Lyon, Lyon, France. More recently his work has been exhibited at Parafin, London; Project Fulfill Art Space, Taipei, Taiwan; ICA, London, UK; and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada.
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