Some of the best things at PULSE came by way of Japan. Two galleries from across the West pond were absolutely fantastic. Of the two, Nagoya City based Standing Pine had one of our favorite artists: Kenji Sugiyama.
Before the event, we had no idea who Sugiyama was and, judging from the spaghetti boxes and eyeballs and general oddity in the Standing Pine booth, it did not seem like their contribution to the festival was going to be all that exciting. That is the point, though: when you approach the lines of spaghetti boxes and strange eyes and a pillar with a little grandmother atop of it, you realize these things are for close inspection. Inside the spaghetti boxes, at the center of the eyes, and underneath the little grandmother were little universes, small worlds Sugiyama calls “Intimate Museums.”
This all gets at perception: what you think you see, what you do see, and what the objects really are. Sugiyama addresses this in his artist’s statement:
How do we see the world? Am I really aware of the act of looking?
Even carefully observing the object surface on which light falls in not enough to understand the world. I reverse interior into exterior, exterior into interior, not only of an object surgace but also of the viewer’s space and the standing in relation to the object. Sometimes I place obstacles between viers and works. Although this limits or deprives their vision, it makes viewers aware of their regular eye movements and changes their ways of experiencing space. As a way of studying visual perception, I have created a series of works. I hope to open up a door for viewers by offering the experience of new perspectives.
His work seeks to make you question how you see things and, even though you cannot fully see the work, you understand it because you have lived it. Like he said of the spaghetti piece (which is entitled Spaghetti), the viewers “may recall visiting a museum before” and through memory this “brings them back to how they perceived or how they remembered that museum space.” That is how the piece is viewed: by seeing it and by remembering experience.
Sugiyama’s work was an absolute delight to see and wander through, even if it was only with your eyes and perception. They were all so detailed and curious and, as he says, they make you figure out the missing pieces because you know the missing pieces: you’ve lived these tiny worlds in real life–he’s just recreated them for you as a reminder of them.