Bridging Beyond Boundaries –Drawing as Another Language

Hiroyuki Hattori (Curator of ACAC)

Hiraku Suzuki’s definition of drawing is broad. He uses the word to encompass the whole of creative expression, extending beyond line drawings to include murals, photography, video, casting, and a variety of other media. He sees drawing as a challenge to generate a new and universal language through which to share and interpret our world, a means of communication entirely separate from the conventional languages we use day in and day out.

The phenomenon of light and its inversion are the two major keys needed to decipher Suzuki’s exhibition, and the entire sequence of his exhibition space is structured around a series of negative inversions[1] of light and darkness. Visitors are first greeted with the artist’s dimly lit statement printed just inside a dark entrance. As they turn and enter the exhibition space, they are met by a vast, curving void, illuminated in stark white by high bay windows that run along the upper wall for the length of the 55 -meter-long space. The windows shine on Suzuki’s mural Walking Language, which covers the opposite wall and is drawn in silver ink and spray paint.

Just below the windows, 91 silver stencils neatly adorn the wall in another of Suzuki’s works: casting. Suzuki traces the shapes of artifacts from the pages of museum catalogues he has gathered from places around the world. He then sprays silver over the stencils until only the contours of their former selves remain. Meanwhile, artworks Circuit #6 and Circuit #7 generate an illusion of time and spatial reversal, swirling parallel to one another at either end of the space’s arc.

Past the curving void, the contrast flips as visitors enter a small, unlit room. Here 84 pieces of Suzuki’s GENZO series line the walls. Each piece is an impromptu drawing of silver spray paint on black paper that has then been converted into a photograph. The act of photography, or depiction with light, is seen as a method of optical conversion that can render his drawings replicable. And so Suzuki inverts the relationship of the original drawings and the photographs.

Visitors must return the way they came: from the dim room back into the bright corridor, and then outside toward another exhibition space across the way. The deepest darkness of the exhibition awaits just inside. Armed with only a flashlight, visitors are immersed in the dark, cavernous space. On the wall beside the entrance is GENGA #001 -#1000 (video), Suzuki’s massive collection of drawings, which transforms midair as if suspended in space. On the wall ahead, visitors use their flashlight to illuminate Keyhole̶the drawing of an amorphous, luminescent alien figure. Keyhole appears to glow magnificently, as it is made up of reflective strips of material that shines light directly back at the source. On the dark wall opposite Keyhole are GENZO #1 and GENZO #2 . The dynamism of the artist’s flecks and lines come sharply into view when illuminated. A single flashlight as the visitor’s only source of light, the entire exhibit can feel like an underground cave and the farthest reaches of space. ─ Suzuki’s notion and application of negative inversion in his drawings is reminiscent of land art pioneer Michael HEIZER, whose subtractive drawings extract geometric patterns by scraping gigantic lines in the earth. Heizer’s land art is guided by a negative reversal of traditional drawing, which adds material to blank paper. The physical experience of Suzuki’s Walking Language is extremely similar to that of land art; visitors can gain a sensation of being surrounded or absorbed into the work, or they can put distance between themselves and the artwork to gain a bird’s eye view. If Heizer sculpts the land, then Suzuki undoubtedly sculpts space with light.

The essence of Walking Language, which Suzuki drew in his short period of resident production, is readily apparent to the viewer. The mural is inspired by the space, created as a dialogue between the artist and the space in a specific moment of intimacy. Almost 100 years ago, the progressive music of the era profoundly influenced Wassily KANDINSKY to create his series of Improvisations and Compositions. Likewise, both improvisation and composition are e ssential to Suzuki’s work. Kandinsky’s drawings, whose dots, lines, and colors gave them a highly suggestive and symbolic nature, not only pioneered abstract art ̶a completely new mode of expression̶ but they also possessed the same provocation and universality of the murals our ancient ancestors drew on cave walls. Suzuki’s murals, which transform with light and the artist’s movement, seem to connect the distant past with the future, as if either inventing a new language or rediscovering some ancient hieroglyphic script.

Moreover, Suzuki’s drawings also possess musical aspects. The lines of Walking Language emerge as the impulsive response of an impromptu performance. Yet the work’s
structure is both logical and constructive. Suzuki is strongly aware of the space’s horizontal expansion as a corridor, so he first lays the foundations of the artwork’s metaphorical sta with horizontal lines. These lines and dots are then joined by a swarm of signs evocative of letters and other objects. When viewed as a whole, the density of the lines generates rhythm throughout the piece. The silver reflects the natural light that pours in from the bay windows. As visitors move through the piece, light moves in front of them, guiding them and drawing their gaze and attention to the mural. Behind them, they also find that light illuminates the mural. The viewer feels as if light is both guiding and tracking them at the same time. Moreover, the light causes the silver ink to shine white at times but appear engraved in black at others. Similarly, it also causes these same lines to shift between ephemeral existences and primordial entities that have long been etched into time. In this manner, their appearances are inverted time and again. Walking Language is even evocative of concrete poetry, the endeavor to spatialize the tangible, concrete nature of language’s visual aspects. Moreover, Suzuki may even be pursuing a mode of visual linguistic expression beyond that of concrete poetry, since the piece assumes reciprocal and transformative qualities with his application of light.

Suzuki discovers lines to connect the dichotomies of language and picture, light and darkness, and past and future, picking up and connecting the many pieces scattered between them. His approach is one that he describes as “alternative archaeology,” a new way in which to interpret our world. To Suzuki, drawing delineates this kind of attitude. His real and metaphorical lines induce a variety of inversions that build a“ circuit that connects the here and now with the somewhere, someday.”[2]
There is no doubt that Suzuki will continue to question our world and shed light on it through the pursuit of a language all his own.

1─ Suzuki Hiraku often uses the term“ negapoji hanten” in reference to his technique, translated here as “negative inversion”
2 ─ Quoted from Suzuki Hiraku’s statement.

December 30, 2015
an essay contributed to the catalogue of solo exhibition “Signs of Faraway”


< return to text list