[Originally posted March 20th, 2014]
Miya Ando at Sundaram Tagore Gallery
It really is a wonderful feeling to step into a gallery exhibition and be immediately
set at ease by the imagery and colors of the paintings on the walls. So it was with Miya Ando’s work in her most recent exhibition entitled Light Metal, her first show in Hong Kong. The selection of her hand-dyed anodized aluminum works and the display of them were well considered—not too many and each well placed on the walls— allowing viewers ample space in which to enjoy the works’ subtle beauty and power. Space is important in looking at her moody work as each piece suggests
a moment of nature that is about to vanish, never to be repeated. I thought here of John Constable’s passionate obsession with clouds, their singular forms, and their magical but fleeting reality. Ando’s world is darker and more turbulent than Constable’s, but it also points to obsession.
Miya Ando was born in Japan but now lives in Brooklyn. She is a product of an upbringing “among sword smiths and Buddhist priests” and art studies in the United States. The combination of her history, cross-cultural art experiences, and high technical ability has resulted in an aesthetic that feels timeless to this viewer. One feels something of the same timelessness in the paintings of Mark Rothko, David Diao, and Hans Hofmann, as well as in Hiroshi Sugimoto’s contemplative photographs of the sea, but in Ando’s art there is also a sense of serenity, even within nature’s disorder.
Ando’s images are lively expressions of natural phenomenon, the climate revealing itself in waves of color and shade, the sky giving off some of its multi-hued manifestations, a couple of which remind one of the wild splendor of the Aurora Borealis. Works such as Ephemeral Indigo (2013) and Ocean Sutra (2011) are, however, more solidly colored than transient aurora. Whether or not one see her works as landscapes or seascapes is not important, what is critical is that we see her art as vital studies of color and light that have the power to influence our emotions.
The flow of Ando’s works suggests that there was some ease in taking her ideas from her mind and setting them down on metal. It is the mark of a fine artist to make it look so easy. Yet it is far from easy. To realize her creations Ando requires knowledge and a deep understanding of numerous technical and scientific elements and art-making techniques. As she works, her ideas are altered slowly to reveal her final vision. It is not a vision born of solid three-dimensional geometry but a physical reality that is free and always changing and that can only be captured for an instant in her imagination before she sets it down on her metal medium.
Here, I might suggest, that the making of her restrained minimalist paintings is governed as much by a deep spirituality and awareness of the silence of mediation as it is by her technical expertise. The radiance of her work speaks to this. And her series of nine small pieces entitled Spring (Haru) Grid (2013) is an excellent example of such qualities.This series, which I feel looks more dynamic displayed in a horizontal line rather than a square, has all the finest qualities of Ando’s art: attention to the details of her ultimate vision, colors, silence, and sensitivity to the importance of the spiritual in art making, regardless of genre. The viewer is drawn gently into these small works individually as separate personal statements. The series collectively is a lyrical appreciation of nature’s beauty. Moving through her work in this exhibition I was always aware of how small one is before the reach of the natural world. Ando projects a unique combination of peace and turbulence that alleviates our anxieties about our place within nature. One is swept along by her energy and her astute meditation on the transience of both nature and life.