Reijiro Wada, Scarlet
Capsule Gallery; 21 January to 19 February
Frames and containers lead the charge in a dualistic choreography of soft organic realities housed in hard artificial constructs. Like a molecular composition of couplets, Reijiro Wada plays poetry with material, time and entropy in his exquisite show Scarlet at Capsule Gallery. It’s all glass, brass, fruit and wine in a delicate dance between Apollonian and Dionysian tendencies. A finely balanced set of scales sits at the heart of every piece, with a kernel of timely demise inserted deep into the core of the instrumental nature of the work, in a two-stage, long-term inevitable decay through beauty and death.
In SCARLET-Mirror and SCARLET-Window red wine sits between double-glazed plate glass and is encased in brass frames. The latter is half full, leaving the remaining space to fill with carbon dioxide; the former completely full of wine, allowing for a fully reflective surface of deep scarlet to echo the room and the viewer’s gaze. The high-polish finish of the brass, the crisp reflective surface of the glass, together with the quality hinges and screws, all speak of expensive architectural features and domestic design. Red wine reinforces this lean toward an apparent refined taste and implied set of class signals. Bottles of Pinot Noir housed in glass cabinets are one thing, poured Cabernet set inside brass-framed, double-glazed windows is another thing all together. And yet, for all this apparent reflection upon cavalcading evocations of fine wine and good taste and nice houses, the works stand as material marriages that run to universal concepts and vibrate at a much deeper register.
In the centre of the room, a wedge of two glass sheets stands as equal part barrier and door. Forced inside and jammed like floating, orbiting micro-planets, are three pieces of fruit – two apples and an orange. A lime and a pear have become dislodged through the act of ageing and reduced robustness. A sense of partnered engagement between these disparate types of materials occupies all of the works – the organic and the crafted. Fruit, whether fresh singular pieces, like a lime, or fermented juices in the form of wine, is in a very real way decaying and changing with the ravages of time, and exposure to light and air. It is housed within highly refined vestibules and vessels of silica and metal, in the form of transitional and transformational spatial constructs – doors, windows, mirrors. There’s a palpable consideration to all that has been combined and it is poetic and calm and clever.
This considered composition extends beyond the singular artworks into the curation of the space. Reflecting on the balanced nature of the artist’s approach, the room is an even-handed distribution of work that picks up on the simplest of relations that are all too easily forgotten in so much presentation of artwork. Adjacent works connect; works opposing each other enter dialogue; and literal reflections in glass bounce characteristics between pieces. Even the central glass sculpture works to filter connections across the space. There is, with every positioned work, a thought to the way in which the bodily instrument of the human visitor will encounter the artworks and the spaces between them that it will manoeuvre its way through as it does so. I find myself all the more conscious of my organic self housed within this gallery frame, decaying with every moment and working my own carbonic acids upon the floors, walls and ceiling. I will die first, like all this fruit, but I will take the frame of this cultural context with me, even if only at a dramatically slower rate. And no matter how culturally refined, like fine wine, I think I am, I will always only ever be a horizon line of contemplation and an echoed reflection of the thoughts first generated by bronze-aged evolutionary constructions drawn from the earth and its many elemental materials.
The inclusion of a 2010 study drawing, or design drawing in German (entwurfszeichunung), of a sculptural work that was executed in Germany in 2012 gives an interesting insight into the artist’s practice. It works to also pull the refinement of the pieces in the show back from a manufactured/design orientation to the contemplative material executions of a singular human mind. The study is presented in the gallery at the same register as the other ‘finished’ works and pushes process to the fore, reinforcing both the entropic character of the artworks on show and the organic creative forces of the artist implied in bringing the work to fruition in this state, at this time.
On the wall, a brass sheeted diptych works like split marble wall panels in an Italian cathedral to bring a sense of reverence and spirituality into the room. With red wine in play, this religious undertone rises and falls in various phases as you make your way around the room. The scarlet mirror becomes Russian icon for a moment, before the ghost of Malevich momentarily flickers in its reflection. The brass panels are mounted on aramid honeycomb, spiralling a whole sequence of catalytic associations of the hive, the communal and the organic. Aramid is a material used in military applications for ballistics and protection, which makes it a perfect choice for this piece, which shows the patina effect created by throwing fruit at the metal and allowing the acids to eat away and oxidise the surface. It’s all force, death, entropy and, in an important way too, hope.
Throughout the works there is a play with art-historical contexts and concepts, such as vanitas, still life and perspective. Altar-pieces, icons and landscapes are jostling with found-objects, arte povera and systems aesthetics. There’s Giuseppe Arcimboldo talking to Marcel Duchamp around the edges of the room, while Hans Haacke drops by to wink at Lucio Fontana and Jan van Eyck. But these are all apparitions to the visceral reality of the unique voice of Reijiro Wada who has produced a show of poetic material strength that is rich with ideas and cleverly executed. Lovely, time-slowing stuff.