September 17, 2007 § Leave a comment
Hana Usui, a Tokyo-born and Berlin-based artist, has been learning the strenuous task of calligraphy the hard way. Starting in her childhood and becoming master student of Undo Inamura at the age of 14, she became acquainted with the aesthetic conventions of one of Japan’s most elaborate arts at an early age. In 1998 she graduated from Waseda University in Tokyo with a Thesis on The Influence of Avantgardist Calligraphy and Wester-American Art.
Since those days her skill as painter has prompted her to explore the ways in which the paper reacts to the ink and brush. As in many Japanese arts, from carpentry to lacquer ware, developping and exploring the limits of the material has been a traditional concern brought to fruition.
The recently opened exhibition “Negative” at Galerie Oko proves once again, how Usui’s knowlegde of washi （和紙) interacts with the aesthetic conventions of calligraphy and contemporary art. At the same time her works are reminiscent of the late Action Painting by Jackson Pollock. The crucial difference is that her paintings lack, despite their measure, any pretensions of aggressiveness. They seem to be suspended in midair, softly attached to the wall, as if a frame could keep their motion from spreading. But as the video shows, these pictures (especially “Untitled, No. 1”) are to be perceived in motion. It’s motion come material, where the paper softly answers every call of the brush, every drop of the ink with a bend and a tilt in all directions. The impression is an extremely forceful one (concerning the motions) and a fragile one (concerning the material).
As every artist spreads the boundaries of his given medium, Hana Usui’s fascination with the flexibility and responsiveness of paper, is revealed especially by her stylistic inversion of a negative, black background. The use of alternative tools, e.g. screwdrivers, and the combination of oil colour and black ink illustrates her search for new ways of making the surface talk. Since your flat screen won’t reveal any of the intimacy of colour, material, or the flying birds, see for yourself at Schroederstrasse 12, Berlin, Germany.