Landscape paintings have always been an important part to the history of art and a reflection of time, both in terms of techniques but also in terms of values placed inside the landscape view. Unlike Western art from the same period, Japanese artists in the Edo period (1603-1868) did not adopt vanishing point technique to create perspectives, but rather presented the works in comparatively flat ways as found in Ukiyo-e, for example. It wasn’t until the Meiji period (1868-1912) that a mixture of Western influence began to emerge among Japanese artists. Today, many artists continue to explore this genre of art, and redefine ways we can engage with landscape paintings.
Inspired by The Planet in a pebble (2010) by geologist Jan Zalasiewicz, among many books, Akira Ishiguro considers his works to fall within the genre of landscape. However, instead of capturing the vastness of nature or portraying sceneries of a particular location, Ishiguro seeks to depict his sceneries without vanishing point, and without perception of depth. In his Gravitational Field series (2011-present), what seems to be hyper-realistic paintings of marble slabs are, to the artist, a depiction of the geological epoch known as Holocene (and the eras before), as he follows the formation of mineral streams and patterns of each block of marble over million of years. This microscopic view tells us about the humidity, the minerals, the composition of gas in the air, as well as the lives surrounding the locale where the stones are formed. In the Marblesque series (2015-present), although seemingly abstract at first glance, Ishiguro looks at the present, and to the future, by portraying microscopic vision of what rocks in the Anthropocene age would look like.
In this exhibition, Elevated Marblesque, Ishiguro provides further development to his ongoing series by literally elevating the painting into two levels, stretching a sense of transformation and building of rock layers towards the audience. The surface, reaching outwards towards viewers, gives the density and materiality that Ishiguro seeks to capture, suggesting a sense of topography, contour, elevation and height of the earth: an overview of our physical, chemical and biological atmosphere and surroundings.
Ishiguro proposes that, unlike pre-Anthropocene rocks, the earth of our future would look very different to what they are now, because of the influences by humans especially since “The Great Acceleration”, and mineral veins in future marbles would look very different to what we are used to today. The artist questions how the air and water quality, the non-biodegradable waste accumulated today would shape the way nature would form in the future; and what people of that time can imagine the landscape of today through looking at components captured inside layers of rocks.
Elevated Marblesque further establishes Ishiguro as a master in depicting materiality, depth and weight; and through this microscopic view of landscape, the audience may imagine new ways to view the world.