Tomoo Seki, Real/Red: Red Blossoms
Gallery Out of Place, 3331 Arts Chiyoda, Tokyo; 13 January – 12 February
Seki presents what is ostensibly two suites of works for his exhibition at Gallery Out of Place – a red series and a blue series. Both are investigations of landscape and interpretations of environment, with the red suite being paintings of photographs taken of vegetation around his home town of Nagoya and the blue suite being drawings made en plein air from the same area.
The works are dynamic and vibrate at a distance. As you approach them the recognisability of the subject fractures and abstracts, revealing the mark-making of the artist hand and the techniques of application. Thick sections of natural pigment abut more thinly applied forms which sit adjacent sections of dots. As you move back again from this close inspection the multitude of forms coalesce into flat maps of terrain and eventually recede at varying rates to thrust a spatial aspect that pushes and pulls on your awareness of depth. Leaves practically hustle forward and assert themselves as dark recesses push back beyond the walls into a void of far reaching expanse.
The blue works read as more furtive attempts to capture the feeling of landscape, while the red works read as more complex taxonomic studies. Two large red paintings are especially captivating, conjuring the most impressive sense of spatial affect and slippage between familiarity and abstraction. It is the latter impression – where the brain grapples with the monochromatic globules of form in search of an apparently recognisable image, only to have it sneak up on your comprehension in such a rush as to feel as if the painting is moving – that is the most affecting. The carefully balanced application of paint, and importantly its areas of a sense, allowing empty space to punch just enough void into the image to leave a firm grip of the subject just sitting at the edges of your comprehension.
Notably, Seki paints the sides of the canvases as well, reiterating the objectness of the painting and playing again with notions of perspective and image illusion. From the side, the images become anamorphic and further disorient attempts to lock down a simple recognition of the subject matter. This dynamic quality is an amplification of the particularly fecund vegetation the artist has chosen to represent. Multitudes of leaves and networks of branches run across the canvas in a celebration of the corporeal, the conglomeration and the connective. For at the heart of the work is a celebration of the reemergence of life and the cycle of growth and decay that give constant energy to the vibrational qualities of existence.
The colouration hints at image-making through technical means. The mineral pigments have a particularly earthy and rich quality, extracted as they are through refinement. The red reads as the polarised opposite to green foliage, while the blue reads of printing techniques, inks and carbon copies. Hidden inside the artist’s creative process is a consideration of the transference of the subject matter from witnessed human interaction with an ecosystem to the variant stages of technological transformation into representation. It is a nod to the steps required to wrestle an image into being from an experience into a language.
Real/Red delivers solid works that entice the viewer through visual potency and reward contemplation. Like a favourite natural vista that never grows old, these works have a way of continuing to provide pleasure. Just lIke a tree moving in the wind, or a rolling sea, what at first seems like a simple image keeps us captivated and provides reorientation of our own bodies in relation to the world around us.