A part of my course involves attending art forums and writing reviews so I thought I would share one with you about the work of Ken Yonitani. His work was shown at the last Venice Biennale and I find it quite inspirational and currently he is creating working here in Mildura for the 2011 Palimpsest.
Ken Yonetani stated that he ‘lost his life’ when struggling with the move from his native Tokyo to Australia, and he may have taken a round about route to becoming an artist, but he has certainly ‘found’ himself now.
We belong to a world full of wonder and surprise, a treasure trove of the extraordinary and diverse. Who knows how long the world has existed relatively unchanged existing in a bio diverse balance, and yet due to man’s advance there has been rapid decline in the worlds health. The past couple of hundred years has seen a devastating tole being wrought, and both our land and oceans are paying a high price for our insatiable desire to consume. Yonetani’s work seeks to explore these notions of modernisation and consumerism and the impact it plays on the natural environment through his art practices.
His 2004 exhibition was an interactive object lesson on the fragility of our natural eco systems. Producing over an eight month period, 2,200 fumie tiles featuring eight endangered Australian butterflies, these fragile tiles were laid over the gallery floor and the gallery attendees then walked over them crushing them into irreparable rubble. Eight months work was destroyed within the hour!
When viewing footage it was insightful to watch how people reacted to the experience. Some seemed to take great delight in the destruction their footsteps caused while others futilely tried to avoid the shattering results, and there were even those who could not resist saving the few intact tiles left and placing them out of harms way. What a metaphor for how the environment is treated today and humanities response to the situation. This was a truly inspirational and thought provoking experience that creates an intense sense of loss, reminding us how hard it is to create and how easy it is to destroy.
Yonetanis sculpting skills have since taken an unusual turn. In response to the coral death surrounding Japans Okinawa, due to polluted run off from sugar cane plantations, Yonetani has again produced a deeply skilful, thoughtful and engaging work. Massive
life-like coral effigies have been created from the very sugar that is killing their real counterparts, startlingly white, much like the dead or dying bleached coral.
Placed on a Zen garden-like bed of raked sugar and with blue lighting simulating the play of water and light we are invited to contemplate how Yonetani sees sugar ‘as a much larger metaphor for our desire to consume and its environmental impact. Sugar becomes a metaphor of human desire.’ We begin to question ‘how much is enough’?
Like the fumie tiles, even when we don’t want to inflict harm we somehow inadvertently always do. One is forced to consider how that teaspoon of sugar in your coffee plays a part in the destruction of an eco system.
Currently working in Mildura in central Victoria, Yonetani is embarking on a new work for Palimpsest 2011. The sculptures made from salt will revolve around the salinity problem that plagues the Murray River and the towns that rely on its waters to fuel the production of food for the nation. His new work will be eagerly anticipated as we look forward to the insight and commentary that will arise from the work.
Regardless of where we are born or the language we may speak we are all touched by the same concerns for our environment and artwork that raises such awareness and challenges the status quo is always to be appreciated.