Cloth fibers, dust and human hair. To most people this is garbage to be swept or vacuumed away. For Hiroshima-based Japanese artist Takahiro Iwasaki, these are his building blocks. He turns trash into sculpture by creating impressive miniature landscapes that often feature factories, ferris wheels and other iconic structures. And now, the artist’s first solo show has opened in New York and is on display at the Asia Society Museum.
Titled “In Focus,” Iwasaki’s exhibition comprises “a delicate and fanciful landscape made of fibers from recycled Japanese kimonos,” says curator Michelle Yun. The piece, set in 6 plexiglas boxes, was inspired by the 17th C. “Flowers and Grasses of the Four Seasons” and are displayed at angles similar to the folding screens.
Referring to his Edo-period inspiration Iwasaki says:
The screens feature nameless field grasses depicted with such grace, elegance, and care that [they] honor even these most mundane of plants. Just as the artist of the screens did, I would like to revisit a commonplace everyday scene from today’s Japan, and just as the screens embody a smooth flow from one season to the next, I hope to capture, in my work, the graceful transition of a Japanese landscape from the past to the present.
The transformation of these found and recycled objects from trash into sublime sculptures underscores the artist’s belief in the “duality of chaos and order imprinted on everyday life,” adds Michelle Yun. The exhibition at Asia Society in New York runs through April 26, 2015.
Iwasaki is known for creating detailed miniature landscapes using found and recycled materials. Last summer he created scenes of industrial Japan using cloth fibers and human hair. Below is a miniature coney island created in 2012 from beach towels.
But why does Iwasaki choose to work from such miniscule and limited resources? As we noted, he revealed his choice of medium at an artist talk last year.
Iwasaki was apparently moved by a well-known story about Sesshu (1333 – 1573), a celebrated Japanese ink painter. As legend goes, young Sesshu was studying to become a Zen monk. One day his master punishes him for ignoring his training and, instead, being preoccupied with painting. He ties Sesshu to a pillar but when he comes back to check on him he finds a large mouse at Sesshu’s feet. Afraid that Sesshu will be bitten, the priest runs over to shoo the mouse away. But when he arrives he’s astounded to find that it’s a unbelievably realistic painting drawn by Sesshu using his toe as brush and tears as paint. From that day on Sesshu is never discouraged to paint ever again.