Hackney Wick is now less industrial wasteland than artist’s playground: its rabbit warren of streets home to galleries, pop-ups and (shamefully) some of the few remaining affordable studio spaces in London. Follow one such alleyway to its end to find Schwartz Gallery, currently home to Or, the first solo gallery show of Japanese surrealist artist, Kazuya Tsuji.
Tsuji reworks found ephemera – photographs, prints, sculptures – by mixing them with household objects such as drawing pins, or slick materials like glossy wooden blocks, mirrors and stone tablets. In accordance with the title of the show the work is minimalist and simple, whilst consistently precise and exacting in its execution.
Narrow white marble tables rise up on thin metal legs and support curling portrait photographs, their subjects’ eyes duplicated again and again in prisms sitting over them like glasses; in one corner a woman’s agitated expression glares out from a piece of paper, hung and lit up in mid-air, suspended and trapped, and on the gallery floor are two little fairies, their play disrupted by a collection tiny metal globes covering their mouths – upon first glance, the show is an array of disconnected items, although there is a distinct conversation at play.
Tsuji shifts his collected curiosities into the sphere of contemporary art and, in metal and glass, appears to imprison them there – although all of these appendages are removable, and at the end of the exhibition each object will become debris again. This statement is most poignantly made by a small, rusting iron bust; a young woman looks down pensively, her shoulders, face and hair dotted with bright silver balls. These are magnetic ball bearings which perch like glimmering bluebottles, seeming ready to take flight if disturbed, and when removed will render her useless again.
Amongst the deliberate impermanence and irregularity of Or’s sculptures are two vast white boards whose pure white surface is interrupted by slithering golden veins, branching out from one central point. Whilst the sharp angles of his marble slabs and mirror constructions juxtapose with Tsuji’s aged objects and fragile paper pieces – pinned to and fluttering from the gallery walls – these organic strands on board suggest a human element of connectivity, contrasting with the further focus upon temporality.
Essentially, Or communicates Tsuji’s preoccupation with the hybridity, reproduction and constant change that characterises post-modernity, with these golden branches becoming the links between the people that comprise this culture.
These wall pieces may be constructed from brass drawing pins stabbed into painted board, the artist’s floor pieces may be made from mirror tiles and his little fairies may only be silenced by clusters of steel ball bearings; however the first conjures images of living organisms, cells, maps; the second captures visitors in never-ending reflections; and the final pieces are powerful, if slightly disturbing, in their dark humour.
Within Or Tsuji combines the pointed approach of a minimalist with vivid flair and imaginative narrative to set in place a lively visual discussion of our changing culture, human experience and value.
Or closes this weekend, Schwartz is open Friday, Saturday & Sunday 1 – 6 pm.