Comments on Phase of Nothingness–Skin, a new series of paintings

Asia Art Center
Feb 22, 2019 3:22AM

Notes by Nobuo Sekine, Jan. 18, 2017

Aside from small clues, working on paintings I have titled “Phase of Nothingness – Skin” has placed me in a world without preconceptions, which has forced me to feel my way through the process. The method of assembly is to draw shapes on plywood around 20mm thick, cut it out with a jig saw, pull canvas over it, and tack its excesses on to the strainer with a staple gun. As Liquitex is applied to the canvas and dried, the cloth shrinks, and large wrinkles absorb smaller wrinkles. The act of “wrapping” creates wrinkles and folds that transmit movements on to the canvas as if it were skin…. More precisely, it forms the four-dimensional painting. In other words, I am attempting to express time, or movements, on the canvas.

For these reasons, I titled the works “Phase of Nothingness – Skin”, denoting pliability that can encase space, and membrane that stretches and shrinks like skin. I am not at all sure at this time if my overall aims can be effectively communicated. This being said, even if my intentions are incomplete, if I do not begin making the work, the concepts cannot deepen either, so it is true that I have been creating these paintings without reaching a resolution for two and a half years.

I would like to create a world where micromotion is everywhere all the time, like the winds and tress in nature, or like an ocean, because “alive” means the status of quiet swinging intertwined each other, and my interest is to feel this moment of “alive” on the canvas.

If the membrane of space is likened to the skin, the power relationship among masses in space appears as wrinkles and folds of skin.

What is a “form”, and what form does it designate? The ones I select in my work are likely influenced by my experiences and memories, however I cannot concretely say why it is exactly that I have made the choices to select them in particular. I constantly and habitually make sketches of these forms, but frequently my awareness disappears into them. However, while I kept sketching countlessly, one day I realized…my desire to create monumental, symbolic sculptures may still exist somewhere in the depth of my heart. Monuments with primary shapes, my sketches might be showing, without my conscious intention, my desire to make clear the shapes that vaguely exist in my memory.

Using canvas that is about 30% larger than the frame of the painting, I wrap the forms I have cut out. This produces complex and unpredictable wrinkles and folds. The canvas becomes almost like a skin the envelopes the shapes, and where the wrinkles and folds occur becomes utterly difficult to predict – as such I abandon myself to chance. That is, I can plot the outlines of paintings when I begin, but the wrinkles and golds of the skin that emerge from the forms are reliant on chance. I comfortably let them appear on the canvas by themselves, rather than I try to control everything on the canvas. This entrustment I have felt is quite interesting, even rapturous or trance-like the indescribable relationship ancient people had with nature, forgetting oneself and letting the nature around be and behave as it is.

If I were to make an analogy though Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, what would all this mean? In his Theory of Relativity, in space massive objects like stars distort space, and are said to wrap like too. Astronomer Arthur Eddington’s confirmation of the theory of general relativity through the observation of a solar eclipse is well known. In short, stars, with the gravity resulting from their mass, wrap spacetime as scheme of nature. If so, what if we perceive the canvas as outer space? Numerous stars serve as mass in outer space and exist as forms within the “space of painting”, so in the space of painting exists stars as mass becoming wrinkles and folds that wraps space as forms.

Things do not go as planned…but through the actions of letting the nature take over the canvas, I hope the vividness and fertility of nature can be felt. This position could be the ultimate theme of my work. What’s more, to become one with the being of nature itself is the primary goal of Mono-ha, which is an unending theme that continues to this day. The title “Phase of Nothingness”, the term from the Heart Sutra of Zen philosophy, suggests that there are infinite “phases” that unfold in the world, which is always free and completely unfettered.

Retrospectively, my art making started when I realized my own theme in contemporary art: to present new recognition and interpretation of space. Therefore, I have been committed to topology for a while instead of Euclidean geometry that everyone knows. With topology, if space is considered as skin that is pliable and variable, this would be easier to understand. From my experiences like this, the sense of skin seems to exist deeper inside of myself. The new paintings titled “Phase of Nothingness – Skin” has begun from this historically continuous theme of mine.

Asia Art Center