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In his new exhibit, Ryoichi Suzuki’s carved, flowing forms of wood and stone punctuate two rooms in Salt Lake City’s A Gallery. In each sculpture on display, Suzuki uses different types of stone or wood to produce elongated and graceful organic forms. A native of Japan, Suzuki’s subjects hark back to shapes found in Japanese paintings and minimalist Zen gardens, but he also received his BFA and MFA from Utah State University and has spent extensive time studying, creating, and living in Utah. As a result of his unique background and approach, his finished work combines the traditions of Japan, landscape forms found in Utah, and modern sculptural techniques.
In each sculpture, Suzuki works with the different types of stone or wood to produce an organic, flowing form. Some of his favorite materials featured in the exhibit are sandstone, white marble, and honeycomb calcite. His marble works fall into two categories, human- and cloud-shaped. “Horizontal Torso” lies languid and serene on its pedestal, the curve of stone legs and breasts only subtly suggesting the female form. The stone’s ability to pick up light makes the piece look like it’s radiating warmth from the inside out. This specific quality of marble, the ability to pick up and refract light, helps give the impression of a living body in the abstracted and reduced form.
In “Cloud Is Fifteen” and “Cloud Is Sixteen,” the marble’s and pink onyx’s respective abilities to capture and project light helps the solid sculptures look more like weightless clouds in the sky. “Cloud is Sixteen” is placed strikingly near the entrance of the gallery, next to the window. When a viewer looks at the round, sweeping curves of the sculpture and the combination of pink stone and natural light from the window, it looks like the sunrise is happening indoors. Although the sculptures are solid and made of dense stone, Suzuki’s carving techniques and soft touch helps him transcend the original qualities of the physical material.
Use of marked and patterned materials can be found in the pieces “Torso,” “Flowing Torso” and “Ray of the Sun.” Suzuki carved the wooden “Torso” out of a piece of elm with rings and markings. The darker rings accentuate the curves of the hips, breasts, and legs. The intricate patterns in the wood work with the form the artist carved to create a piece that is somewhere between a portrait of a person and a minimal celebration of the organic material. In “Flowing Torso,” the grainy lines in the limestone are faint, but run horizontally along the length of the reclining body, circling around the hips and shoulders. The crisscross patterns on “Ray of the Sun,” part of the naturally vibrant, shining honeycomb calcite, look like rays of sunshine shining on smooth clouds or the surface of water.
The female forms in all of the torso pieces are elongated and statuesque—their female subjects hinted at with minor curves and planar changes. But one of the tallest upright pieces in the show, “Decorated Torso,” stands out from the rest as a result of its Japanese gold-leaf and black-ink patterns snaking up its surface. Suzuki did this piece in collaboration with his brother, who is based in Japan, creating a piece that from afar looks like a vase or part of an ancient Japanese scroll painting. Here, the tall, gently-curving female form most expressly combines Suzuki’s Japanese heritage and artistic inspiration, the natural forms of stone and landscape found in Utah, and Suzuki’s play with human and natural forms.
This article appeared in the September 2016 edition of 15 Bytes.
Hannah McBeth studied art history, classics, and Mediterranean archaeology before getting a Master’s at Cambridge University. She enjoys writing, hiking, and traveling to far-off places. Follow her on Twitter @hannahmcbee.