On Thursday, January 18th, 2018, NY-based writer, editor, independent curator, artist and lecturer, Paul Laster, held another artist critique session here at Onishi Gallery for international group exhibition ‘Winter Group II’ through Onishi Project.
In this session, for the second in a series of annual group exhibitions through this project, Paul interprets the many artworks within this diverse group, varying in mediums and origins, and offers his interpretation and evaluation. Through Onishi Project, we offer these critiques to help the participating emerging artists in their development and to introduce a re-evaluation of the artists’ works through the eyes of a professional critic.
Onishi Project’s ‘Winter Group Show II’ consists of seven international artists hailing from Japan, Africa, Germany, and the U.S. with works consisting of mixed media works on canvas and paper, different methods of photography, resin sculptural work, and more.
Here we will go through each artist’s critiques one by one as lead by critic Paul Laster:
Artist: Barbie Stattman, U.S.
When looking at Barbie’s intricate multi-media prints, Paul immediately sensed the artists’ inspiration and passion for mythology. The artist also mentioned her love of theology, as well as graphic novels and animations, which is evident in her works subject matter included in this group show. In the piece ‘We Were There Too,’ Paul noticed the faces emerging from the ship’s sails, an illusionary touch that many illustrations use in their works. It makes the viewer do a double take, and they start to notice the other small intricacies of her fantastical illustrations. Taking from tales of new and old, from many different cultures, depicting what she is most passionate about is a fundamental part of Barbie’s life. Originally, she studied animation but then fell in love with illustration. She uses the traditional medium of ink, quill and nibs to create her drawings, which she then scans, colors and adds texture to digitally to create the final effect. Using software, she adds grit to flat colors and compliments the line weights. She takes a huge influence from tattoo arts, which is quite evident in her ‘Stranger Rose’ work, in particular.
Artist: Chris Namaizawa, Japan
Chris Namaizawa, who showed with Onishi Project last year as well, exhibited a new series of decollage works titled ‘Pop Camouflage.’ Each piece, consisting of mirrored newspaper headlines on cut wood pieces treated with acrylic paint, speak to the viewer without saying anything, as Paul mentions in his comment “I like the fact that you reverse the language and you can’t read it. It’s shouting at you, but it’s not saying anything in particular. Like the media world.” The jig-sawed wooden forms throughout each piece are not in any shape in particular, and hold no meaning but are open to the viewers’ interpretation. Also, Paul liked the negative space of each piece where the wall can be seen. It adds another dimension to the work. Paul says “it’s kind of like a puzzle, an abstract puzzle.” The theme of ‘camouflage’ in artwork brings to mind the military, but also Andy Warhol’s “pop sense of camouflage” as described by Paul. For some, camouflage can have a negative meaning, but in these artworks, he doesn’t see it as negative but as a “transformation of the negative into something positive.”
Artist: Adama Coulibaly, Africa
The impactful, linear mixed media artworks of self-taught artist, Adama Coulibaly, are done all by hand. Paul notes his impression of the artists’ precision which looks as if it’s using some sort of tool or tape. Referring to the work ‘Save Thy Terre,’ the critic mentions that it “brings to mind the globe and the person – of the inner self” and sees this particular piece as a mix of both human observation and an artist self portrait. As Adama explains, the cracks, scattered around the globe “almost like it’s a crystal ball” show how we should care for the earth. He expresses that the earth “is a gift that was given to us.” The artists’ two other pieces included in this show, ‘Bewildered Crystal Eyes’ and ‘La Vie Hit Twice,’ do not exhibit a human figure, but are more abstracted, like “a state of mind or a universe of a galaxy or mandala.” as Paul describes. Within these abstractions are an artists’ struggles, as Adama himself is a survivor of war and one of the only ways to express his emotions and to see the world was through his art, through painting. Paul also expressed how he liked the framework of ‘Bewildered Crystal Eyes’ and it’s tunneling sequence, which is very pleasant to the eye.
Artist: Hiroshi Aoki, Japan
Paul immediately saw a sense of surrealism in Hiroshi’s type of photography, he expresses as though his works are from another time. The layering technique with multiple exposures adds a surreal nature to the piece, with the nudes, both outright and not, mixing within the space as well as the hanging lights and raindrops cascading on the apparent figure that can be seen and beyond. These are a series of “very compelling images” and Paul expresses that he loves the way that the light hits “her face”, referring to the first in the series of ‘Pornograffiti’ works in this show. The way that the light becomes linear on her face makes it seem like she is perhaps underground. Also, the raindrops and condensation on the window creates a sense that she is “married to the urban environment.” In Hiroshi’s works, he seems to give a feeling of trying to create something from the past and his use of the term ‘pornograffiti’ is interesting even though the works are not particularly pornographic at all. Referring to the third in the series, the face appears to be a little more ambiguous and hermaphroditic, while there appears to be two female nudes on either side of the face upon closer examination. With the gaze of the crumbling central figure fixed on the viewer, it gives an “eerie, or nightmarish” feel to the piece, which is part of what the artist wants to portray – a sense of despair and suffering but at the same time, hope.
Artist: Hisato Fukumoto, Japan
The works of Hisato Fukumoto, with much influence taken from the beauty of nature and the power of salvation, are abstract in their expression of things within the living world. His abstract interpretations of works of nature, such as trees in his works ‘Imagine Tree 12 & 13’ play on the act of meditation. He wants the viewer to try to imagine that there is a ‘strange and beautiful tree in pure land’, sort of like a land in the mind upon reaching enlightenment. These two small mixed media works are done very painterly; they “play on each other to give an opposite, binary feeling” as Paul describes them. The critic noted that he liked the fact that the artist used a rectangular piece of paper to symbolize a tree, hence “there are no branches or leaves, it’s more like receiving the aura of a tree.” They each have strength, as if they invite the viewer to get into them, as a very inviting space, one tries to transcend the surface of the work to enter in. Hisato’s ‘Remembrance’ piece is a much larger work, very textural and it’s depiction of a setting sun against an imaginary plane is accentuated with the flow of the dripping red paint and apparent greens and yellows patched throughout the work. The added texture on the bottom of the piece, at the ‘horizon’ point, gives a sense that this might be a sandy plane, somewhere far away “in a very poetic way.”
Artist: James Watts, U.S.
The process in which artist James Watts works is quite impressive. In this new series of photography, which he is showing for the first time in this exhibition, he starts off with a very small drawing and from there, he starts to manipulate and shape them. Creating a much larger piece from something so small, it begins to resemble something you would see through a microscope, almost like they go through some sort of “evolutionary state”, as Paul describes. In all three works, there is a sense of time and space, of movement and motion. The presentation is something that Paul really liked, since they seem to have a “photogenic process” but are then printed on aluminum in a lab. James mentions that these works are something that he has only started working on about a year ago. He usually works with sculpture and forms and this technique has given him the transparency that he was looking for and was lacking. Paul describes the work ‘Wound’ as “haunting” and “skeletal”, giving a sense that the form could be submerged underwater, encased in amber, or in a celestial plane. This, of course, is up to the viewers’ interpretation, since these in themselves are all digital interpretation of a drawing from the artists’ mind.
Artist: Silke Natschke, Germany
Silke’s multi-dimensional works are born from her curiosity and experimentation of various materials. In her ‘Two Faces’ series now on display, she uses a sheet of cast epoxy resin, molded, painted, and then mounted on a wooden box affixed with a mirror. As the viewer moves around the piece, their view is altered by the mirror and the backside of the resin is exposed, showing another ‘face’ to the work, as the title of the series suggests. These are all a very conceptual type of project, “dealing with abstraction.” The artist expressed that these works are more about the creative process, rather than the subject itself. “It’s about the human endeavor” and the artist expresses, in that it’s sort of a diary entry. Many people wear more than one face. Paul can relate, since he expressed that he “sees (himself) in a little bit of this piece” With the use of the reflective surface of the mirror, it brings the spectator into the work and they then become a part of the work as well. Silke takes much inspiration from literature and philosophy, and expressed that ‘Plato’s Cave’ was a huge inspiration for her works, in the sense that you see the reflection but you don’t know which is reality or if you are even are part of a reality. She has created her own world in each piece, as many people are unhappy with the world they are given. The two faces speak with one another, and we all have at least two faces.