Venue: Daiwa Foundation Japan House, London
Dates: 7 November 2019 - 31 January 2020
Text by: Keiko Koshihara
The figures that Saeki draws seem to share almost nothing with the real world. Like a vision that suddenly appears out of thin air, they lack weight and mass. Saeki actually depicts the dazzling light that fills the sky during an explosion, or a phenomenological event that is in itself an entity but lacks a determined shape. These ephemeral illusions, without firm elements such as gravity, body, or foundation, could be said to represent above all the essential nature of imagery.
Yusuke Minami, Director of Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art
Hiroe Saeki’s exquisite drawings emerge from layers of almost invisible lines, springing from the fragile lead of a mechanical pencil which has been further sharpened with a fine grain of sandpaper. Compositionally, the works reveal the void of paper, often perceived as a signature of Japanese historical art. However, in contrast to light Japanese washi paper, Saeki uses a fine-grained, flat stock with a high bulk and the strength to hold the scratches of her fine line work. The materiality of the surface engages with the pristine emptiness within her drawings, arresting moments on the unadorned, shadowless plane.
Her work inhabits a liminal zone on the edges of the perceivable: monochromatic explorations of the subject of beauty in nature, delicate drawings with a weightless quality, sparse compositions evoking traditional aesthetics. Like a photograph, the totality of the artwork and the detail are valued equally.
The void is inherent in her work, allowing the microscopic and macroscopic viewpoint to coexist. Thus her chosen tool is the pencil: ephemeral because it can be erased, fluid because it is undefined, emancipating because there is no outline to follow.
In this first UK solo show, she presents a new body of work with graphite and water. The powdered graphite travels through capillaries of water, a process the artist likens to a mass migration of animals: settling where and when the water evaporates, to be absorbed by the land of paper. The resulting surfaces recall water-carved, planetary landscapes.
Saeki’s drawings evoke associations with biological or mineral forms, such as geological sediments. Exquisite, minuscule lines take us to the nano level of the cellular structure of organisms. Combined with the serendipitous nature of her new graphite process, they take on a sense of the cosmic. This new work coalesces her vision of the world into a yearning to interconnect with the universe at all its scales.