Mika Yoshizawa

Skydoor Art Place Aoyama; Soh Gallery

An abstract painter who became known in the early ’80s for her large-scale, gestural paintings on unorthodox surfaces such as vinyl and aluminum, Mika Yoshizawa has continued to refine her vocabulary with an uncommon singularity of purpose, seemingly impervious to the vagaries of the art world. She remains an autographic artist, for whom delicate touch and meditative process are the keys to content. Hers is an art of solitude, of focused and incremental (though not systematic) investigation, about the search for form and the bestowing of meaning through that search.

From the outset, Yoshizawa has explored the links between abstract gestures and the rhythms of life through the suggestion of recognizable form, of volumetric objects in space. The imagery consists of accumulated marks, the collected traces of large physical gestures engaging the entire arm in arcs. Toying with the tentative suggestions of form that emerge, the artist repeatedly erases and reapplies pigment in a process rather more reminiscent of the physical shaping of clay with the hands than of draftsmanship. The result is a species of unstable form, increasingly stylized biomorphic or geometric shapes that retain their movement, transparency, and an indeterminate quality, hovering between agitated graphic flatness and pulsating volumetric life.

Although a similar process governs the generation of Yoshizawa’s exquisite small drawings, her forte remains the large-scale monochromatic painting. Her materials are chosen for their amenability to such treatment: printers’ ink and white or off-white plastic sheeting (acrylic, or polypropylene) have, after a decade of experimentation, proven most suitable to repeated application and erasure through wiping. The surfaces of the paintings exhibit a liquid quality and a variable opacity, an almost edible lusciousness that belies their synthetic nature.

Yoshizawa’s drawings and paintings, like her earlier installations, define the occupation of surfaces on the level of walls and rooms as well. Though the recent paintings have temporarily reverted from earlier inflected polygons to rectangles, their edges read as window frames isolating single segments of much more extensive color fields, particularly in works such as HE-44, 1992, HE-45, 1993, and HE-46, 1993. “Background” elements, such as repeated dots or arabesques, reinforce such readings. In her recent large prints (the artist’s first serious exploration of the medium), subtly shaped plates continue the earlier explorations of eccentrically edged fields. Though more resistant to alteration than ink and plastic, the copper-plate medium Yoshizawa has chosen for this series—utilizing drypoint and aquatint—nonetheless encourages gradual reworking, testing, and contemplation. Here, variable color density is sacrificed for utter flatness and opacity; lines are sharper, though delayed, and all marks bear the visible textures of aquatint and burin. They are successful works, particularly when dense accumulations of thin drypoint lines suggest nervously agitated, rounded volumes.

At a time when the art market in Japan is flooded with hastily produced and loudly hyped local industrial artifacts of questionable sincerity, the freshness and humility of Yoshizawa’s work comes to the fore: hers is an art of inspired deliberation, of selfhood, and of observation.

Azby Brown