23 Oct Soichiro Shimizu, Circular Squares
23 October 2018
Slowly revealing, evoking ancient craft and spirit in a mysterious and spellbinding way, the painstakingly crafted and tormented, dreamy and spiritual engraving works by Soichiro Shimizu arouse a true fascination.
Initiated par Keith Haring and inspired by Prince’s infinite creativity allied with a burning passion, Soichiro Shimizu likes to play with fire and make light of elements, deep inside an abstract work in pursuit of balance and hungry for oxymorons like creative destruction.
A Japanese painter and sculptor working in Bangkok for 15 years, Soichiro Shimizu, born in Tokyo in 1966, earned a solid reputation in New York in the 1990s and has exhibited and made fans in many countries. From Big Apple two decades ago, where he’s been noticed by both The New York Times and The Village Voice, to Anteprima, last year in Milan, with the RE-LOOK exhibition he created in Bangkok.
Although he was supposed to have an athletic career, his encounter with Keith Haring in Tokyo in the 1980s and the strong friendship that resulted from it convinced him to leave the Japanese capital to go to the Big Apple and dedicate his life to art.
Taking course from the prestigious School of Visual Arts, he created a style of painting at the time that Jeffrey Deitch, the former Director of the MoMA in Los Angeles, classified among the ranks of such big names as Marcel Duchamp. The famous art dealer and curator described Soichiro’s work as follows: “Soichiro Shimizu’s work is a unique fusion of action and meditation, nature and artifice, toughness and delicacy. The artist draws from Japanese, American and European sensibilities to create an original vision that embraces national artistic traditions but also transcends them.”
The artistic background of Soichiro is a fusion as well: a combination of European and American art schools with Japanese craft that requires a very meticulous and laborious attitude, which can especially be seen in his engravings.
In a way, Soichiro’s practice is indeed oxymoronic because it is simultaneously highly controlled and arbitrary as well.
The first stages of creating his works are very meticulous. The preparatory stage that includes patterns of his abstract works are very well thought when looking at the sketches of Soichiro’s works. The second stage of the actual work with the materials is even more controlled and laborious.
If you read the artist’s explanation of the working process, it may seem more like a scientific experiment which requires a solid knowledge of chemistry. However, with that scientific control over the art creation process, there is also a place for chaos in his work.
“When I do a piece, there’s a hoping, it could be that way or this, and I get nice surprises. Oxidation is a very tricky thing with the burning factor, but deterioration can be a beautiful stage. Part of my work is actually working itself, I intentionally put it in that condition. If you see my metallic work, the rust never sleeps even though you put the stoppers and coating and everything, it keeps changing for sure and I kinda like it actually.”
It is not just power coming out of the fusion of the opposites, but despite the emphasis on the contrasting sides in Shimizu’s practice, his works turn out to be very holistic and well integrating into different environments. The works look natural not just on the walls of a white cube gallery space, but as well as against the vivid backgrounds created by Soichiro himself for one of his shows.
Furthermore, for one of his latest shows in 2017, Soichiro’s engravings blended in so naturally into the space of the 18th-century Palazzo Collicola Arti Visive in Spoleto, as the texture of the engravings matched well with the classical interior and art of the museum.
It is in this perspective that we’ll see Soichiro again taking over YenakArt Villa with Deeply Rooted, an exceptional contemporary exhibition during the Bangkok Art Biennale.
The gallery will display his newest wooden engravings and a masterpiece in metal of 2.5 x 3.5m, while the garden will host monumental sculptures by famous jewellery artist Matthew Campbell Laurenza.
“It will be mainly those engravings”, Soichiro explains, “for which I use this very thick plywood engraved with a drill machine, and torch or plasma spray and oxidation with acid! The fact that I use oxidation and burning factor is actually quite meaningful. In the nature, nothing actually stays the same, deterioration always occur, even at molecular level in any structure. That is the notion behind my work.”
For Louise Hayward, former Curator at the Tate Britain and Director of Lisson Gallery in London, who wrote the exhibition’s catalog forewords: “The wooden works by Soichiro Shimizu are deeply connected to this innate respect for nature within Japanese culture. Within nature, there is always destruction; a central part of the processes of death and renewal. In the mind of the artist, not only the natural cycle within nature, but also the disruptive impact of human beings upon the earth, is now part of the natural order in which we live. Shimizu’s decision to use plywood as the structure, boundary, and material itself of his artworks relates to this cultural relationship and questioning. His work is a metaphorical landscape, harnessing the power of beauty and deterioration to express an aesthetics of modern existence.
Soichiro’s works are sculptural reliefs with strong references to modern painting. Looking at the myriad expressionist movements across the surface, one recalls the wild abandonment of Pollock’s ‘Summertime.’ But within Soichiro’s gestural style, there is a logic and compositional structure. At first the eye reads the full expansive mass of swirling patterns, but with closer observation, columns, grids, symmetry and concentric shapes reveal themselves. Just as with nature, within the apparent chaos there is a determined order.”