Exhibition at SLY Art Gallery (2016)
Conversational, botanical and floral patterns are representations of reality printed on a surface. As if bringing a garden or the real world indoors, these surfaces establish affective connections with us who, for a moment, forget that the representation of flowers is only an image made visible by layers of paints or dyes, and not the real thing itself. We accept to be fooled by the illusion of things, the appearance of things, as a trompe l'oeil.
In this sense, patterns are representations of reality brought indoors and used to adorn our bodies, objects and living spaces. That is, reality is embodied in a physical surface, in a movement from tri- to bi dimensionality.
These are the concepts that guide this exhibition, to be assessed in the pages below.
Humans are the measure of all things, the philosopher has already said. The scales of our bodies are contrasted to the scales of Nature, from the most immediate ones, like insects, animals and plants, to the greatest scales of mountains, rain and the sky. Interior spaces are a good measure as well, as this artificial environment is ergonomically designed to fit our bodies in: tables are related to the length of our legs, pens and cups fit our hands and the ceiling is adapted to our living conditions. If we bring plants and flowers in, their variety of sizes also fit different daily objects, from the tiniest to the large ones.
This said, our hands are a natural measure that connects the scale of our bodies with the scales of both the natural and the artificial worlds we live in - including the scales of the patterns represented on different surfaces, such as wallpapers, tablecloths and napkins.
The dotted areas are representations of different scales of patterns, that could be flowers, birds, cars or purely geometric forms. The idea, though, is to use a neutral pattern that exemplifies the height, width, depth or diameter of the real things. At the same time, such pattern-models act as proxys that connect the measurements of seemingly unrelated categories of things, like a hammer, a flower and a knife, like the polka dots above with 3,5cm in diameter.
Different sorts of natural and man-made objects sharing similar scales. Isn't it interesting that a chair and a shirt would yield a huge polka dot? In what kind of interior space could it be applied? If not as a polka dot, what kind of motif, then? How could it fit the need for balance within our interior spaces?
I first painted over a dozen sheets of paper, of different sizes, with black polka dots, measuring their sizes, from 1mm to 80cm, and then put it against different sorts of objects and environments.
How big is everything? From experiment to artwork.
When exploring the concept of representation of reality as patterns, I came up with the idea: What if we used real things as inspiration to create patterns? Not by observing and copying them but by looking at the connection to reality that the object suggests. There is a category of things, or ideas, called index, and it means that real things leave a "footstep" behind themselves. For example, when we see smoke, we most likely will find a fire; if we see footsteps in the sand, it means someone has been there, as the marks on the soil point to this physical presence. Or, photography is an impression of light in a film, or in a digital lens. All these things point to a physical presence in reality, a freezing of a moment that has already passed. These sort of things are called indexes. The idea with these works "Grated Patterns" is to use the four sides of a vegetable grater to imagine how a potato, carrot, cucumber or ginger look after grated. First I draw the shape of the cutter, then the shape of the grated veggie. Finally I extend these patterns and let them superpose with each other, creating patterns that are finally worked in color, to create products such as floor tiles and scarfs.
The work "Hidden Shapes" has forms that invite us to fit the object within, while "How big is everything (III)" dissects a sweeper into its component parts, embodying it in a bi dimensional surface, so that the image is completed when the objects and its representation are shown together.
Examples of different scales of patterns: from the tiny calico to the giant geometric patterns of the 1960's and 1970's - meaning that the same pattern can be potentially represented in whatever desired size, sometimes leaving space for addition of details, or for simplification.
One way to put the concept of "Index" in practice is by using the technique of cyanotype, a precursor of the photographic process, where a surface (paper, fabric) is applied with a UV-photossensitive emulsion that, when covered with objects, creates a direct impression of its shapes. That is, the real size is printed as it is, without any adjustments.
Impressions of the different scales of black polka dots in different environments: indoors and outdoors. Notice how a pattern that looks too big indoors almost disappears in a forest, hidden behind the scales of Nature and the excess of details of the foliage. Indoor environments, on the contrary, are controlled, clean spaces, without insects, dirt, the action of natural light, sounds and the wind, or any other disturbance. Even the indoor lights are constant, whatever time of the day.
I've tried before creating patterns out of objects. Here I create pattern-objects out of bi dimensional patterns. What I find interesting are the implications behind creating a floral pattern, like this Hakka, Chinese pattern. The background is flat blue, absolutely non-realistic, but one that works well in integrating the shapes and colors of the pattern. The flowers and foliage have details, especially those showing light reflections, that don't appear when we observe real flowers. The sizes of each element are planned in a way that they balance each other along the overall composition. The designer can adjust whatever size, whatever detail, so to make it fit well in that specific space. But when we try to emulate this pattern using object-flowers (plastic flowers), even when following the same size and composition as the original, the result looks clumsy. We can control the positioning and direction of the elements, but not its size and details, and the action of superposing flowers so to fit the space, becomes even more evident. The blue background seems much smaller than in the fabric, and not all details were represented, and it feels that the empty areas should be filled with tiny little white flowers, for the sake of balancing the composition.
The concept of Portable Garden was explained above: how to bring the real world into surfaces and what kind of implications we can think of, due to the need to adapt different scales to real objects. The other concept of this exhibition is Makie, the imaginary house where our character Taniuba lives. Taniuba is a peacock that was inspired by three categories of Japanese girls according to their clothes: the Maiko (Geisha) from Kyoto, the Gyaru Yamanba (a sort of "punk-ish" girls from the 1990's-2000's) and the average, fashion-oriented girls, that wear everyday Western clothes and traditional clothes in special occasions.
Taniuba is our peacock character that assumes the concepts behind the three shapes of the girls above: the punk-ish Yamanba, the traditional Maiko and the average, elegant urban girls.
The name Taniuba comes from a play of words: Yamanba, or YamaUba, means "the witch of the mountain", the name by which the punk-ish Yamanba were known. To me, they look like a demon from the Noh theater. But the Yamanba girls spent their time in Shibuya, Tokyo's fashion headquarters. One of the characters that compose the word "Shibuya" means "valley". This way, these girls are "witches of the valley (of Shibuya)", and the sound for valley is "tani" - therefore, "TaniUba".
The house were Taniuba lives, Makie, I imagine to be a traditional paper/fabric scroll, where stories are written and painted. Some possible readings for this word mean "foldable illustration" and "foldable house", or even, in the image below, "house of the space between the trees", and "illustration in the space between the trees".
During the Summer of 2012, together with my fellow Suzuki Motohiko, we set up an exhibition with patterns inside a forest, to observe how patterns and fabric, and the stories and dialogues between them, interact with the natural environment (insects, sounds, smells, wind, sun light), making us aware of the limitations and challenges of displaying fabrics in a forest for a few days: what if it rains? or gets dirty, or eaten by a bird or a squirrel?
Kitchen Tales is an idea of creating a collection of textile products inspired by kitchen objects and the patterns created by their assembly in space.
The logo for the brand Taniuba is printed in large size.
Eating and interacting with Nature and its scales at a restaurant by a river.
... and at a coffee shop at the elegant Daikanyama neighbourhood, in Tokyo.
Taniuba assuming her three shapes as Gyaru Yamanba, Maiko and cute girls.