Memory and Knowledge Intertwine in Chiharu Shiota’s Immersive String Installations
In Signs of Life, a dense installation of knotted and wound string fills much of Galerie Templon’s New York space. The work of Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota (previously), the solo show transforms the gallery into a monochromatic labyrinth of intricate mesh that ascends from floor to ceiling. Shiota considers the multivalent meaning of the web, from the structure of neural networks within the human brain to the digital realm today’s world relies on.
One of the works features bulging cylinders and dangling threads in red, while another white structure traps numerous book pages within its midst. Created during a two-week period, Shiota envisions the installation as connecting personal memory and the collection of knowledge. “I always thought that if death took my body, I wouldn’t exist anymore,” she says. “I’m now convinced that my spirit will continue to exist because there is more to me than a body. My consciousness is connected to everything around me, and my art unfolds by way of people’s memory.” The show also includes previously unseen drawings and sculptures, many of which contain quotidian objects that prompt questions about how items become meaningful, sentimental, and precious with use.
Signs of Life is on view through March 9. You can find more from Shiota on her site and Instagram.
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Enigmatic Sketchbooks Record Visual Stories in Colored Pencil and Ink by Katherine Akmulun
One way to approach the cinematic sketchbook drawings by Katherine Akmulun is to think about literature. “When we read a book, not only do we look at the characters, but the characters are looking at us,” she says. “And they see much more than we think.” This awareness forms the basis of the artist’s ongoing series of drawings that capture intimate interactions, bold gestures, and momentary expressions. From a young age, a fascination with human anatomy and love of reading inspired a wish to become “a kind of writer,” she explains, and “since I feel insecure about words, the only way out for me was to keep a kind of personal diary with sketches instead of words.”
In ballpoint pen and colored pencil, Akmulun explores the duality of two facing pages by creating images that are distinctive from each other yet empathetic to one another. A close-up of hands grasping lightly at the fingertips complements a joyful scene of two women dancing, or a young child clasps her mother’s hand while gazing across the binding at a man who walks briskly across an open plane. Part story and part snapshot, the mysterious narratives reference historic images and are open to interpretation. “The funny thing is that different people can see different scenes in the same picture,” she says. “And this is incredibly cool, because we all have different life experiences, different environments, and different interests.”
Akmulun travels often and is influenced by the nuances of everyday experiences, which she captures using a minimal palette. She aims to collect and record feelings and memories in the books, but she’s not precious about keeping them intact. “I love to rip out pages,” she says. “I like to realize that the pages of my personal diary can travel the world, and can find their home not only in my sketchbook. I am pleased that people want to have a piece of my personal world in their home.”
Akmulun occasionally makes pages available for sale, and you can follow more of her work on Instagram.
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Solitude and Nature’s Ephemerality Emanates from the Illuminated Forms in Sung Hwa Kim’s Paintings
A sense of solitude and the finitude of time pervade the quiet, introspective works by Sung Hwa Kim. Rendering overgrown landscapes shrouded by night, the Korean artist wields the connection between ephemerality and memory, sometimes invoking nostalgia, as well. His acrylic paintings focus on fleeting acts like a glowing lightning bug or butterfly hovering above the grass while utilizing light to “symbolize the spirit of things we once loved, have lost, despair and longing. I wanted to capture these feelings and tell the viewers that even in our darkest times, there’s always light and not lose hope,” he shares.
Much of Kim’s work revolves around witnessing the world around him, and his practice includes regular walks or bike rides near his Brooklyn home. “I’m always searching for moments that are frequently overlooked in my everyday life—weeds growing in sidewalk cracks, sneakers hanging from telephone lines, fireflies in Central Park,” he shares. “It’s essential to my practice to be actively attentive and open and receptive to the world around me. It’s these moments of pause that I still enjoy and get my inspiration.”
Explore an archive of Kim’s meditative works on his site and Instagram. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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A House of Crimson Steel Vines Harbors Memory and Mourning in Wuhan Shimenfeng Memorial Park
Rambling, weathered ivy constructs the walls of a home placed among the quiet, serene cemetery of Wuhan Shimenfeng Memorial Park. The project of designer Hu Quanchun of Field Conforming Studio, “The Vanished House” elicits the act of remembering in a public space devoted to mourning and memories. Tension between the enduring and transitory pervades the architectural work, shown through the combination of the sturdy material and open roof that appears to fade around the perimeter.
In a statement about the memorializing project, the studio likens the structure to that of a child’s sketch, explaining that the simple design draws attention to the sprawling vegetal forms laser cut from sheets of Corten steel. Over time, the crimson material will age with rain and sun, and its rusted color will stand in starker contrast to the green environment.
For more from Field Conforming Studio, including a similar vine-based project installed at Delong Steel Art Park in Leting, Tangshan, visit its site. (via designboom)
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Impasto Layers Blur Portraits and Landscapes in Li Songsong’s Fragmented Oil Paintings
Chinese artist Li Songsong (previously) obscures portraits and wider landscapes with thick dabs of oil paint. His textured, impasto works are based on found photographs or imagined scenes, and each conveys a narrative tied to ordinary moments or a broader shared history. Varying the extent of distortion in every piece, Songsong tells Colossal that interrogating personal identity is at the center of his practice. The “cultural and historical aspects are related to China, and the language and expressions are my own,” he explains.
Songsong’s recent works include a tender scene with an officer and his dog, a portrait of a hopeful pilot, and a panoramic shot featuring a crowd with hundreds of anonymous faces. The richly layered pieces speak to the haziness and fragmentary nature of memories and stories, especially those interpreted from a distance, and come into focus when viewed farther back with a squint.
Based in Beijing, Songsong is currently working on a new series of works, which you can follow on his site.
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Plants Embedded in Wax Sprout from Fragile Hands in Memory-Infused Works by Valerie Hammond
In Valerie Hammond’s series of wax drawings, protection is two-fold: the artist (previously) encases dried flowers and ferns in a thin layer of wax, preserving their fragile tissues long after they’ve been plucked from the ground. In outlining a pair of hands, she also secures a memory, or rather, “the essence of a gesture and the fleeting moment in which it was made.”
Centered on limbs lying flat on Japanese paper, the ongoing series dates back to the 1990s, when Hammond made the first tracing “partly in response to the death of a dear friend, whose beautiful hands I often found myself remembering.” She continued by working with family and friends, mainly women and children, to delineate their wrists, palms, and fingers. Today, the series features dozens of works that are comprised of either hands tethered to the dried botanics, which sprout outward in wispy tendrils, or others overlayed with thread and glass beads.
Although the delicate pieces began as a simple trace, Hammond shares that she soon began to overlay the original drawing with pressed florals, creating encaustic assemblages that “echoed the body’s bones, veins, and circulatory systems.” She continued to experiment with the series by introducing various techniques, including printmaking, Xerox transfers, and finally Photoshop inversions, that distorted the original rendering and shifted her practice. Hammond explains:
The works suddenly inhabited a space I had been searching for, straddling the indefinable boundary between presence and absence, material and immaterial, consciousness and the unconscious. For me, they became emblematic not only of the people whose hands I had traced but of my own evolving artistic process—testimony to the passing of time and the quiet dissolution of memory.
Hammond’s work recently was included in a group show at Leila Heller Gallery. Her practice spans multiple mediums including collage, drawing, and sculpture, all of which you can explore on her site and Instagram.
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