Week 2 (11 October 2015): Shoso Shimbo's installation for Archibald Prize Exhibition at Art Gallery of Ballarat. His work will evolve in next 2 weeks. http://archibaldballarat.com.au
Cage (Bird of paradise / Paradise of birds)
In creating this work to celebrate the Archibald Prize Exhibition, the question I asked myself was “how can I, as an Ikebana artist, pay homage to the most significant portraiture award in Australia?”
My original inspiration come from Self Portraits by Frida Kahlo (1907-1954). In her works Frida herself is in the midst of lush green foliage, flowers, birds and monkeys. It seems to me that the forest behind her represents an ideal state of spiritual freedom that is in contrast to her physically tormented reality. The role of nature in these works resonated for me as I am always interested in the relationship between humans and the natural world.
I chose chicken wire to create a head, which in some ways resembles a cage. The chicken wire as well as the metal frame within creates a separation between the inner space and the unlimited freedom outside the work. Are we restricted by the reality of our physical being or can we allow our imagination to take us outside our cages and into the forest of our spirituality? In the back of my mind I also had some images of refugees who are sometimes kept in cage like circumstances, dreaming of the freedom that lies outside the cage.
Although birds are usually kept inside a wire cage, you may see them enjoying themselves outside the cage in this work.
Contemporary art is hard to understand, particularly for the Japanese. We are not very well informed about it. I’d like to talk about a few things that made me so surprised when I studied art.
First, contemporary art is specifically about contemporary society and culture. It is different from art in general. This maybe just common sense for some but rather unexpected for others.
Next, what is necessary in contemporary art? Is it beauty? I thought it was. But it isn’t. Beauty is important, but not necessary in contemporary art. This seems to be a point that Japanese people in general find very hard to understand. Takashi Murakami, a well known international artist, insists in his books, that many Japanese people don’t understand what contemporary art is. I don’t intend to explain in details as Murakami did, but would like to offer a quick guide to contemporary art. The crucial factor in contemporary art is meaning. If the artefact does not produce any meanings, it is not valued as art even if it is beautiful. I’ll explain a bit more about this aspect in the next issues.
I used some of flowers from my garden in this work. Japanese quince and lily of the valley bush are among my favourites. By arranging flowers they grow, Ikebana artists enjoy the flower twice.