Atsuya Tominaga "Sphere"

Ippodo Gallery

poster for Atsuya Tominaga "Sphere"

This event has ended.

Ippodo Gallery NY presents sculpture by Atsuya Tominaga. Atsuya Tominaga is a Japanese sculptor who has inherited the spirit of Isamu Noguchi, and this will be his second solo exhibition at Ippodo Gallery NY. Unlike his first exhibition at the gallery in 2008, in which he presented his 'Ninguen' (People) series, consisting of 'standing' stone statues in human form that seemed to reach up to the heavens, this time Tominaga will exhibit his 'Sphere' series, which he began work on in 2011. The series of works consist of minimal, organic, spherical or cubical forms that appear to 'roll' across the Earth. 'Pillars constitute the male principle and spheres the female. Together they comprise a complete world.' This exhibition will consist of approximately twenty works that have been sculpted from travertine or marble, then polished to create soft, round forms.

"The surface texture represents a point of contact between myself and nature. Artistic expression results from the friction of life and nature" -Atsuya Tominaga

For Atsuya Tominaga, sculpting stone is not simply the act of carving out a shape, it is to inscribe himself into nature and mingle with the stone. Stone is more than merely his material, it is his partner, and the 'surface texture' of his work is born through texture of the chisel marks, and is the result of the coming together of self and stone. It is his response to nature - a commitment - and that is why he works entirely on his own, not employing a single assistant at any stage.

The works in his 'Sphere' series that will be featured in this exhibition, are small enough to be completely enveloped in the hand. They take the shape of fruit or seeds, without a definite top or bottom, and the distorted shapes possess a movement, causing them to change their expression, depending on the angle from which they are viewed. The basic white tone of the travertine or marble is given a smooth, streamlined shape without corners, creating an organic appearance. The 'surface texture' created by the chisel marks in each piece differs, due to the fissures that appear in the stone or the uneven way in which they have been sculpted.
Like Richard Long (b. 1945), who recorded his footsteps as he walked through the countryside (A line Made by Walking), or Roger Ackling (b. 1947), who uses a magnifying glass to focus the sun's rays and burn lines into wood to create drawings (Sun Drawing), Tominaga interacts with nature through dialogue, rather than looking upon it as something to be subjugated to his will. As a result, his works are not 'objects' in terms of being finished forms. Rather, they represent the act itself of creating the 'surface texture' -the aggregate of his sculpting and carving of the stone.

Born in Osaka in 1961, Atsuya Tominaga studied sculpture at Kanazawa College of Art, remaining to take a graduate course before returning to Osaka in 1986 where he began working with black granite at a local quarry. In his twenty-ninth year, there was a period of about three months when he would experience a panic attack every time he saw a sunset. It may have been due to the fact that he was surrounded by giant stones that measure time on a cosmic scale, but he was filled with the fear that sunsets connote death. Amidst his fear, there was a turning point - a profound epiphany that would define him as an artist - when Tominaga felt a sudden oneness with nature and responded to the stone. The day that Tominaga became aware of his relationship with nature was the same day that the sunset passed through him and his fear disappeared. He continued his creative activities at the quarry for ten years before travelling to Pietrasanta, Italy, to work there for one year. While he was there, he visited the catacombs beneath Rome, where he underwent a profound experience that was to determine the direction of his work. Small recesses had been carved out along the tunnel to hold the deceased, and when he saw the chisel marks in the rock, he suddenly understood the meaning of the primitive act of carving stone. "It was not the shape of the form, but rather the mark left by the chisel."
These two episodes, one in Japan and one in Italy, were to determine the nature of Tominaga's work. In other words, the moment that the sunset passed through him, nature ceased to be an external force and he physically committed himself to it as an internalized entity; the revelation he experienced in the catacombs led him to realize that sculpture is not shape, but rather the act of carving oneself into the surface of the work. Since then, he has used travertine to create his 'Ninguen' standing figures that are reminiscent of ancient stone columns. In 1998 he moved to a studio in the mountains of Kyoto, then traveled to Lascaux, France, where he worked with the same type of limestone that is found in the local caves, famous for their prehistoric paintings. A poet will often pause on his travels to compose a verse. In a similar vein, while travelling to such places as Nachi in Kumano, Wakayama Prefecture, Tominaga has stopped to sculpt the local rock. Also, he uses stone that has been excavated from the center of Tokyo. And in 2011, after the great earthquake, he visited the devastated coastal areas, sculpting anonymous monuments for the souls of the dead out of stones he found among the wreckage. In this, he can be said to resemble the Zen priest, Enku, who traveled the country in the seventeenth century, carving wooden Buddhist statues wherever he went, and demonstrating Eastern affinity with nature.

"The texture of the surface that has been sculptured and shaved by human hand is clearly different from that which has weathered naturally. When I sculpt stone, it is a song of joy to the fact that I am a human being."
Stone is the Earth; stone became mankind's first tools; our ancestors laid stone to create the pyramids; they constructed temples, and sculpted human figures from marble. Part of mankind's creativity springs from our connection with stone. However, in modern times, the advent of industrial processes and advances in science have deprived people of their relationship with stone, this most basic of materials. Communications have become digitized; it is possible for media to be transmitted from anywhere, at anytime, causing art to lose its weight and sense of locality. Today, when we question the meaning of the 'act' of one person leaving a trace on a single stone, we can turn to the simple, honest image of Tominaga confronting the stone and earnestly swinging his hammer. The works that he produces bring into life an energy, like lightning, that passes straight through the heart of the viewer. It is the shout of a person, blending the pain and joy of being human. It is cathartic for the viewer. The 'surface texture' that Tominaga creates through his chisel marks, produce a vivid, scintillating scene in which nature and self come together, presenting a tangible testament of the bond that exists between nature and humanity.



from April 19, 2012 to June 09, 2012


Atsuya Tominaga

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