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Dynamic installations by Shinji Ohmaki invite human sensorial experience

The Japanese artist Shinji Ohmaki with his sculptures pushes the viewers to question the given reality of spatial forms to accentuate the experience of the human existence.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Jul 06, 2020

As easy as human sensory activity of ‘seeing’ may seem, the visual perception involves selection process and concept formation. The constant negotiations between the outer space and inner sensory journey have been explored by the creative minds as an extension of the human potentials. Divulging scores of these possibilities, Japanese artist Shinji Ohmaki creates immersive experiences with installations in the conceptual art spaces that disrupt the lines between history and physical spaces.

Gravity and Grace by Shinji Ohmaki | Aichi Triennale 2016 | Shinji Ohmaki | STIRworld
Gravity and Grace Image Credit: Courtesy of Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art

The cycle of regeneration comes alive with Ohmaki’s work Liminal Air Space-Time that oversees a play of a silky cloth to reorient the physical and imagined sensation of the viewers. The hidden fans coupled with the mechanised programme and external interactions with air, humidity and temperature shape the movement of the cloth like a wave. The installation becomes a metaphor on our fleeting existence and makes us ponder on the obvious nature of things around us. This was reiterated in the part of a series, Echoes–Crystallization, which is inspired by the Italian expression ‘memento mori’ or the inevitability of death. The installation, with the plant imagery running against the interplay of light and shadow, talks about the dire effects of the urban industrialisation that has razed a particular classification of the plant.

‘Echoes Infinity Moment and Eternity’ by Shinji Ohmaki | Aichi Triennale 2016| Shinji Ohmaki | STIRworld
Echoes Infinity Moment and Eternity Image Credit: Courtesy of Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art

There is a deep-running thread of oneness with nature connecting major of Ohmaki’s artworks such as Liminal Air Space-Time and Echoes–Crystallization, where technology - a catalyst - lets the audience achieve the bliss of universal harmony. Speaking with STIR, Ohmaki explains this conspicuous presence of technology, “Technology acts as a facilitator to help me visualise the concept from invisibility. I am conscious of how it could be used to approximate my idea to the human movement and natural movement. To think again about what nature would be, I utilise the technology to my work and think about the new relationship between technology and humans”.

‘Echoes Crystallization’ by Shinji Ohmaki | STIRworld
Echoes Crystallization Image Credit: Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts

Ohmaki, who is also an associate professor of the sculpture department of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, with the immersive artworks transform the white cubes into the world of wonders, where the physical spatiality nudges the viewers to have an experiential journey. The dynamic installation Echoes is a kaleidoscopic floral landscape that allows the audience to be a participant to the work to enhance its meaning. Our history has shown that the cultural value of the flowers goes beyond the nations’ boundaries to build a healthy ecosystem. To buttress the same, the floral motifs borrowed from the gardens of Asia, Europe and Japan were created with the stencil technique that lends an element of magical realism to the work.

When the works are embedded with intense meaning and scale, the translation of the creative thought process to the final stage of execution demands precision and dedication. Ohmaki walks us through this art of making when he says, “Since the core of my work contains the common theme of ‘questioning for existence’, I am deeply seeking for something invisible in the complexities hidden in the nature, such as the movement of rice ears and the movement of waves in the wind, the texture of darkness that emerges in the forest at night, and the minorities disappearing with the development of a civilisation. In the process of visualisation, I try to capture them more clearly by sharing them with my assistants, robot engineers, family members, friends and researchers and others or by reading books. Throughout these processes, my ideas become tangible in my thoughts. Furthermore, I could materialise the image of my idea into work by confronting the theme of the exhibition, the characteristics of the venue and space, as my work tends to often be large installations. In order to create a space that appeals to people’s physical sensations, I question myself what and how the tension could be emphasised among the audience, the work and the venue, by making full use of the composition of various elements such as light, sound, gravity, wind, etc”.

Installation view of ‘Echoes Crystallization’ | Shinji Ohmaki |  STIRworld
Installation view of Echoes Crystallization Image Credit: Courtesy of Yokohama Creativecity Center

Through his art practice, Ohmaki expects, “the audience to visualise the problems behind the beauty. I would like the audience to feel and think through various perspectives about the essential existence hidden in the form. Poisonous creatures send signals with their horns through their beauty. I am actively working by thinking about how to translate the real world and how to understand it. I would be happy with my work being seen by such a perspective so that the audience would enjoy more deeply and profoundly”.

‘Liminal Air Space-Time’ | Simple Forms: Contemplating Beauty | Shinji Ohmaki | STIRworld
Liminal Air Space-Time Image Credit: Courtesy of Mori Art Museum

Ohmaki, with his diverse works, pushes the audience to relook at the obvious assumptions of our daily life and rekindle the importance of human sensory practices. To achieve this through an artistic practice, the works border on the technology, leaving the viewers with a desire to have an organic immersive experience, less dependent on the automated machines. 

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