Hiraku Suzuki and Takehito Koganazawa's "Panta Rhei" (Everything Flows) at Talion Gallery in Nippori, Tokyo was one of my highlights of 2012, so I was happy to hop on Eurostar this week to catch Suzuki's talk about his work at Daiwa Foundation in London. Although hugely nervous about his public appearance, Suzuki delivered a fascinating talk about his "alternative archeology" and the show "Excavated Reverberations" that has been running at Daiwa from 21 March to 10 May 2013 .

Hiraku Suzuki (b.1978) is a hugely popular cult figure in Japan with a background in experimental music and street art performance. As a recognised contemporary artist -- one of a group of mid to late 70s born "after the gold rush" artists that I have written much about -- he has developed very fast in recent years, extending his visibility to several prestigious international residencies and shows. At Daiwa he put the accent in his talk on its roots in a fascination with archeology dating back to his childhood. Citing Indiana Jones, he recounted how he used to visit the vacant sites of Jomon excavations in Kanagawa, where he grew up, to dig up his own fragments -- of ancient pottery, perhaps, but also old foreign coins, bits of plastic, old rubbish. The process captured his imagination, as one underlining that the real world also contains other hidden layers, unknown things, dormant under the surface.

In a sense, this process has become his dominant modus operandi throughout his career, a process mostly applied to the act of drawing. Suzuki talked animatedly about his attempts to "expand the field" of drawing, with ordinary paper an excavation site for remembered signs and images drawn out of everyday observations and experiences. His central work thus became his hugely successful GENGA series, which appeared as a book published by Kawade Shobo in 2011. The title refers to a word play between the words "gengo" (language) and "ginga" (galaxy), with "genga" also meaning primal or original pictures. In this work, Suzuki draws his own lexicon of signs and hieroglyphs -- which take anything from two months to two seconds to execute -- which echo as much his own phenomenology of place (cities, landscapes, travels) as (pre-)historical archetypes and trans-cultural psychological subconscious. Hence drawing becomes a kind of "alternative archeology".

Suzuki illustrated this particularly effectively (I thought) via explaining how, for example, he used fragments of asphalt to create new sculptures in natural forms such as ammonites (reminding us that right up close, in microscopic detail, the glass and concrete artifice of the city is also composed of ancient natural minerals and crystals); or how he might take a small element from an everyday piece of signage in the street (a Japanese road "stop" sign), then re-cycle it as a new element of his lexicon. In other installations, he has taken familiar signs and re-projected them on gallery walls, so they take on almost mystic significance. In the book GENGA he chose about 1000 of these images as entire self contained language of line drawing. Behind him at the talk, these signs appeared as a constantly shifting set of animated drawings in a video made from the GENGA work. Also on display, were the spectacular "ammonite" spirals of silver hieroglyphics seen at Talion -- obvious commercial works that illustrate the power of Suzuki's formidable technical control with lettering.

As the new work at Daiwa shows, there has been a marked shift in Suzuki's work, under the influence of a recent residency at Chelsea art college. Suzuki has tried to dig deeper in his process by tracing natural patterns of light, as well as the shapes of antique objects, re-projected now in silver paint as (photographic) "negatives" or "reverberations" of these lines and shapes. It is primal art that evokes the first "negatives" of hands painted onto walls in Paleolithic caves. The process also evolved from his first experimentations with sand cast sculpture, producing aluminium plinths on which his ever-morphing "glyphs" appear. There is a purity and simplicity to this work -- and a clear personal evolution -- but it will be interesting to see if he keeps his audience as he moves further away from the street and performance art associations that made him such a hit at the 2010 Roppongi Crossing.

The event at Daiwa ended early, so I was also able to trundle across town on London's creaking underground, in time to catch the opening at the Japanese art focused ICN gallery in Shoreditch.

From 2-25 May 2013, it is showing Nagoya based conceptual artist Seijiro Niwa (b. 1967) who, in a series of striking installation and photographic works, explores the phenomenological conumdrum of how consciousness (i.e., vision) is both "in" and "outside" the world -- producing objects not seen by anyone ("Ankyo") and objects visualisable only by a blind artist ("Mesashi").

I chat with the artist and a friend about his education in Aichi with the legendary Professor Hitsuda (who taught Yoshitomo Nara, Hiroshi Sugito and many others). Niwa will make a public talk about his work at ICN on Saturday 4 May 2013 at 2pm.







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