The Mine presents “Vertical Volume”, the second solo exhibition of Japanese artist Yasuaki Onishi in the United Arab Emirates, presenting a new body of work expanding upon an earlier preoccupation of the artist with the fluidity of the built environment, re-imagining space as an interrupted sequence of fragments and enabling the transformation of spatial surfaces into composite worlds of definite material weight. Onishi’s capacity to translate into the domain of visual culture the essential qualities of pure space in their metaphysical demands, calls for an immediate disacceleration of the sensorial moment, re-configuring the physics of time. Where do these installations begin or end? While on the surface they remain almost impalpable, what lies beneath is an augmented reality of contrasts, similar to the composition of music or the chemistry of deep space. From the perspective of the viewer, navigating this cloud of inverted horizons, could be associated with different metaphors from the world of the visible: the receding apparatus of symbols and signs of the real, the information age, cloud computing and networks, or the impossible sublime.
The artist’s interest in invisible raw materials –air, time, gravity, turns the work into a phenomenology of experience, transforming omnipresent but yet ungraspable substances into a delicate living tissue, hanging almost accidentally and acquiring properties that are sculptural only through immersion and dispersion; from a distance they retain a primeval aspect, as if they had yet not come together in the mind of their creator. “Vertical Volume”, the room-size installation that lends its name to the exhibition, is Yasuaki Onishi’s new work, in which volumes of cylindrical bags expand and contract with vertical motion, creating a vertiginous sensation of negative space through movement: The absolute and the void conflate and contract through the same interface, presenting themselves and each other as one and the same reactive substance. The polyethylene sheeting, a practically invisible material, covers large surfaces of the earth in the eighty million tons produced globally each year. Although the plastic sheeting is discreet and fragile, almost immaterial, polyethylene is produced mainly from petroleum and not exactly biodegradable, therefore its ubiquity on earth will outlive the human world.
“Vertical Volume” brings to mind the spatial practices of earlier conceptual artists, using diverse industrial materials to imitate and animate the dynamics of living organisms, activating a mechanism of deep memory in our apparatus of consciousness, and making phenomena simultaneously appear and disappear. Certain utopian drive is present in Onishi’s approach to the physical world, as these surveys or landscapes, characteristic of his work, are constructed in deliberately abstract manners, as if composed out of data mining or made from dark matter. In his earlier major work, Reverse Volume (2010-2012, on show at The Mine in 2014, the result of various residencies in Japan and the United States, Onishi creates a landscape both sublime and subliminal, using nothing but polyethylene and black glue, constructing a light-weight sculpture that while very rudimentary in its execution, appeared to the audience as if flooded with light and visually invasive, never acquiring a final definitive form. At the liminal border of the real, where conjured up meanings erupt into objects of the world, volume is only a horizon of perception, or a function of desire.
In a new series of paintings, “Plates of Pressure”, the same dark glue used in earlier three-dimensional installation was applied with a glue gun on wood panels as if it was a paintbrush. Then the panels were subjected to a number of technical processes such as pressure-bonding, industrial scratching and re- heating for liquefaction, leaving in the work different layers of traces as phenomena inscribed into reality, and illustrating the material transformations of the world, and the transition from phenomena to concreteness. These processes, at times even chemical, intrinsic to modern life with its cycles of production and waste, sometimes sites of vast emptiness –rock quarries, the garbage patches floating in our oceans, the space debris in the geo-synchronous orbit of the earth, or abandoned mines, operate as anti-memories, or poetic utterances in reverse: They cannot be fully read. At the heart of Vertical Volume there lies Yasuaki Onishi’s initial preoccupation with deep perception, in which entire structures of knowledge can be built from scratch, using the most simple and amorphous materials.