The fluorescent coating gives off a chilly light. The electric fan moans quietly. The glue hangs in the air. The polyethylene plastic sheet sways lightly. Onishi Yasuaki combines regular tools and electrical appliances in their original form to create large, three-dimensional works that exceed human scale. Sometimes a vinyl sheet catches the wind and rises up in a pure white space; other times, shiny, fluorescent-colored string expands and contracts in the darkness. Onishi’s works softly fill an exhibition space for a set period of time, and are later dismantled without a trace.
Despite Onishi’s use of a fragile and hypothetical means of expression, the overall work maintains a cohesive power that verges on spectacle without ever becoming disjointed. This is because the things he creates are unquestionably “sculptures.” But in creating his works according to modern sculptural concepts, it might look as if Onishi has deliberately tried to distort them.
In fact, in gazing at his work, one realizes that Onishi has reinterpreted the essential concepts of modern sculpture, such as volume, masse, movement, and form, according to his own unique approach. For example, the physical volume of a work may not be endowed with masse because the interior of an object is hollow. In addition, as Onishi makes use of things like electric fans and model-train motors, he instills a sense of movement in his work in a very direct way. This simple, mechanical method, however, seems to imbue it with a clear sense of indifference. On the other hand, I would also like to mention a series of works that makes use of extremely light materials, which fluctuate by picking up vibrations in the air. With this approach, one might say Onishi is attempting to discard the peculiarly solid and permanent quality of sculpture and replace movement with actual movement. Moreover, the form of the sculpture is created through a reciprocal relationship with its surroundings and a dynamic system – in and of itself, it lacks any definite substance. With each instant or point of perception, the form is renewed.Thus, Onishi adopts classical sculptural concepts one after another and interprets them according to his position to give rise to something – which might be seen as a phenomenon or presence – that would normally be difficult to create. As he moves back and forth between a sense of tension and relaxation, floating and gravity, he captures a unique atmosphere that gradually comes to life.
Titled reverse of volume, Onishi’s work in this exhibition establishes a void. By suspending the glue and polyethylene plastic sheet from the ceiling, the artist draws our attention to the empty space and heightens the intensity of the void at its center. Normally, in the process of casting a bronze statue, the undulations of the work are the inverse of the mold used to make it, but is Onishi perhaps attempting to cast the entire exhibition space here? And is it perhaps we the viewers who are being poured into the temporary mold? The title of the work refers to the inversion of substance and void, but Onishi seems to be upending nothing less than sculptural concepts as we know them. What exactly is he hoping to discover through these two- and three-fold transitions?
*Nakamura Fumiko is the Onishi Yasuaki Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art Curator