SHIZENGAKU is an exhibition of new work by painter Shuji Okada, installation artist Ryo Ishikawa, and sound artist John Levack Drever, organised to complement a series of academic collaborations between the staff of the Fine Arts Department at Seian University, Japan and the Music Department at Goldsmiths, United Kingdom. The exhibition will open at Saint James Church, Lewisham before travelling to the Menier Gallery, Bermondsey.
These three distinct practices each explore the relationship between the natural world and the synthetic art object. For SHIZENGAKU, each artist has taken Lake Biwa, a vast body of water near Kyoto, Japan, as the starting point for new work.
Okada's oil paintings depict the withered plant life that floats on the lake’s surface. Employing the Grisaille technique, a method of working in which the minutely detailed painting is entirely made up of tones of grey, he reproduces images of this tiny natural ephemera across vast canvases.
Drever, in preparation for the exhibition, travelled to the Far East to carry out extensive on-site field recordings at the lake in order to capture the complexities of its auditory environment. A cohesive sound piece will subsequently be fashioned from these samples through a filtering and editing process similar to that of musique concrete, a musical form that attempts to capture the intrinsic musical qualities of quotidian objects.
Ishikawa has also visited the lake in preparation for the exhibition, during these visits he has drawn and frozen water from each of the 116 springs that occur in the same district as Lake Biawa. These frozen globes of water will then become the starting point of a new body of work, the exact nature of which remains unresolved but will continue to develop up to and during Ishikawa’s visit to London to oversee the exhibition’s installation.
The way Drever, Ishikawa, and Okada retrieve material and images from the outside world and then situate then within the pristine white walls of the gallery space is reminiscent of the approach of the archaeologist. Each deploys a devotion to the detailed empirical investigation of their subject; their preferred optic is that of the close up; they sift through hours, days and weeks of organic material for what they are looking for; and once unearthed, their discovery is put on display and set in perpetuity.
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