Concept, mastery, originality and technique are the characteristics of a truly great contemporary artist. Crystallized over 30 years of experience in the art world, Lesley Kehoe Galleries has identified these traits as essential to the art and artists we introduce to the broader art community. They have necessarily evolved from our long association with the art and aesthetics of Japan, a culture that we place above all others in terms of its history and continuing reverence to art, design, craftsmanship and beauty in daily life.
In preparing the mission statement for the gallery, we were forced to articulate carefully our underlying principles, beliefs and goals. In doing so, we transcended the cultural, historical and geographical boundaries of Japan, identifying these principles as universal, although best expressed in Japanese aesthetics. Concept was added to our list of art’s ‘vital statistics’ in recognition of the important role this plays in contemporary art. However, we believe this has come to an unnatural and destructive predominance in Western contemporary art to the detriment of the other three. Japanese artists are not afraid of technique, of the years and years required to achieve mastery and a complete understanding of their chosen material. This is reflected in the response to their work, invariably veneration of acknowledged mastery. And, as a study of our history as a gallery shows, we are confident to call the three-dimensional, art.
In this exhibition of the works of Asaka, Corr, Douglas and Loughlin, we celebrate the discovery of these essential traits in the work of four artists resident in Australia. All graduates from the internationally reputed glass workshop at Canberra’s ANU, these artists combine diverse cultural backgrounds, life experiences and artistic techniques with a common commitment to intellectual thought about their work, to originality and to excellence in technique.
Glass is a demanding material. It will not bow to incomplete mastery. It will transform in fire, the kiln acting as broker between the creative intent and desire for control by the artist, and the material’s inherently ambiguous nature. The process of creation requires significant physical strength, an almost brute force that is in strident contrast to the final apparent fragility, lightness and translucence of the material in the finished work. In the works of Asaka, Corr, Douglas and Loughlin, we see this seductive, chameleon-like material responding to individual mastery and creativity in unique ways.
In serendipitous connections, Loughlin spent many of her early years training in the art of Japanese monochrome painting. Her spiritual landscapes speak to the ephemeral and the abstract, reflecting the meditative aspects of Zen painting. Corr speaks of Japanese rock gardens and architect Tadao Ando as major inspirational forces. Douglas explores negative space, perhaps the most uniquely identifying characteristic of traditional Japanese art. Asaka is Japanese and unconsciously brings to bear all that that means, but in the intriguing currents of cross-cultural interchange, creates sculptural forms perhaps more influenced by Western art principles than traditional Japanese. The physically and emotionally demanding aspects of his work, his commitment and respect of the material, and the undeniable mastery that this involves, are however, distinctly Japanese.
In bold statements of originality, both conceptual and technical, each of these artists embodies the principles that define art. Their work provokes the intellect, inspires, evokes passion and awe, indulges the senses and stirs the heart. Theirs is the revolutionary spirit that is able to respect and learn from tradition, while at the same time transcending that tradition and transforming it into contemporary dialogue. We do not need to draw unnecessary parallels to Japan in these artists’ work. They are there in the principles of concept, mastery, originality and technique that are identified as the universal in great art.
Lesley Kehoe BA MA FRAS