A Semi-transparent Overlap
Curator, Kirishima Open-Air Museum
Kagoshima prefecture covers a vast area of land and sea and possesses a diverse range of natural environments, with subtropical islands located in its southern territories, valuable evergreen forests and volcanic mountains among them.
Sakurajima, the volcano-island which famously symbolises Kagoshima, unleashed a fierce eruption on the day after Joyce Ho arrived in the city. Ho, awed by the pillar of smoke that rose from the volcano, headed to Sakurajima the next day to see yet another eruption occur before her very eyes. Inspired by these events, she commenced work on her new artworks for the Lobby Project with the theme of “nature in everyday life”. Though her approach was indirect, Ho took the form of our everyday life as her senses perceived it and applied it to her work.
The most interesting aspect of her works is not so much the originality of the images she creates, but rather the fact that the media and images that she uses overlap and permeate one another. In terms of traditional genres, her expression uses a combination of painting, sculpture and video to create the desired effect in her work space.
For example, in the new work Moist Scenery, a painting of Sakurajima and a projection of steam pouring from the spout of a kettle are overlapped to make it seem as if Sakurajima is erupting. The partially-hidden barcode and text at the bottom of the work further adds complexity. Additionally, the painting of Sakurajima is a copy of a photograph on the magazine beneath it. This work can is in fact a three layered overlap of different media: video projection, painting and printed material. Each of the media is semi-transparent: each represents itself while at the same time revealing and drawing attention to the other media.
In Sakurajima’s Shadow, it can be seen that the curtain has ceased to serve its original function, now simply forming a curve between its 7 metre high anchor point and the opposite wall. Beneath it, a pattern identical to the embroidery on the curtain is replicated using a stencil and volcanic ash collected from Sakurajima. The pattern resembles a shadow, echoing the title of the work. However, at the same time, the corner of the pedestal is buried under a deep pile of what is clearly ash. The ‘shadows’ cast by nothing and the ash which exists purely as matter gently intertwine as they exist alongside each other. Similar techniques are also used in other works. In Green Factor, a painting using a book as a support, the bookmark is treated identically to the painted ribbon, creating a link between the physical book and painted image.
The disparity between appearance and reality is revealed in works such as Overexposed Memory and Ups and Downs. Though the surfaces of the media are only thinly covered by paint, we recognise them to be something completely different: in the former, fruit that has degraded after being boiled for a long period is given the appearance of being fresh. In the latter work, Ho paints a real pillow to give it a decoratively artistic appearance; one could say that she has transformed a premade everyday object into an actual work of art.
Semi-Transparent one and An Ordinary Activity convey an image of floating. The placement of the former requires the viewer to gaze up at the work from the exhibition lobby, while the latter is placed such that the projection touches the floor. Semi-Transparent one portrays a human figure, the lower half of which is coloured to provide a vividly real appearance, while the upper half is completely white and appears almost to melt into the wall of the building. The feet that appear in An Ordinary Activity have also been painted white; the two works become one as they bestow the 7 metre-tall exhibition space with a sense of dynamism. As can be seen from the above, Ho uses both the created and the real, overlaying different media and images and creating a disturbance between them.
Further, in several of her works, she poses questions relating to the creation of art itself. Today in contemporary art, it is possible to present any and all things as art. Ho does not simply use premade objects in some gesture of rebellion against the establishment, but instead probes the angle of how those objects may be manipulated in order to transform them into art. Of course, the focus is less so on the differences in the material form of the artworks and more so on how we perceive them. She does not rely on craft, nor does she deny creation: it could be said instead that she creates semi-transparently.
Ho does not create any unique images or uncommon objects. When we see the small photographic work, The sketch of 22 east 38th street, which is attached to a pillar, we notice that the water held in the subject’s hands acts like a spectrum, creating a rainbow as the light passes through it. Her creation process does not so much entail the creation of images, but she can rather be said to be ‘scoop up’ images from everyday life, as symbolised in this work. I believe that her works teach us the importance of sharpening our senses within our everyday lives.