Moving down the spiral on glass sandals
By Igor Zanti
From the top of a bell tower, James Stewart looks down, and his gaze is lost in a spiral: the spiral of vertigo.
Clicking the heels of the red shoes she “stole” from the Wicked Witch of the East, Judy Garland begins to follow the spiral yellow brick road which will lead her in her journey towards knowledge and maturity, ending in the Emerald capital of the preposterous Wizard of Oz.
The elegant and delicate cave paintings turn in a spiral, on cave walls concealed in the solitude of the Lybian desert.
Gold, silver and bronze, modeled into fine strands, bend in narrow spirals to decorate the jewelry on the regal beauties of the past.
Since prehistoric times, ceramics were covered in spirals to defend against spaces that led to harm. The spiral is a recurring decorative element in every part of the world, tied to ancestral cults of the sun and the stars. It is one of those topoi that is so widespread that it is hard to establish an era, a place or a reason for its existence.
I was curious to find the spiral as the dominating element in the recent production by Tsuchida Yasuhiko.
Being familiar with this artist’s works, his thoughts on the concept of “window” as a place of exchange and a metaphor for the eye, I was unable to establish and define exactly the meaning of this new artistic direction.
The nature of Tsuchida’s spirals is very particular: they are not a continuous, clear determined line, they look more or less like a bolt of lighting, a dream vision, the corner of an aurora borealis, a match shaken in the air, a tongue of fire that draws a path of light before dying out: more a spiral of light than of a tactile material.
Beyond all this, I must say as a premise, for what little I know about Japanese culture, it did not appear likely that this element was simply the result of a decorative choice or the need to draw a line. A people that uses a language expressed through ideograms is unlikely to use signs randomly, on the contrary, a sign always has a very specific meaning.
Where could I find the answers to my questions without ending up with an annoying cliché?
Sometimes, and I speak of myself first, those of us who must talk about art forget about the artists, and in a sort of narcissistic delirium of a parasitic kind, we tend to exaggerate our reading, considering the artist himself as a sort of object rather than a thinking being. Keeping in mind what I have said, I tried to find the answer to my questions in the notes that Tsuchida collects, keeping alive the tradition, which was quite common in the past, of writing down the thoughts and sensations that contribute to the development of a work.
I experienced a moment of reasonable and justified distress when I understood the real meaning of the spiral.
Our artist lost his mother as a child, an experience that traumatized him profoundly and from which, however, he drew a powerful creative energy, plucking the absolute seed of his creativity.
Following the loss of his mother Tsuchida noticed that when he closed his eyes, he saw a spiral of light – the same spiral of light we can all see when we close our eyelids – which, in the imagination of a child, became the sign of an infectious and hereditary illness. This obsession pursued him until his early adolescence, when by accident, he understood that this was something that everyone experienced, and not the sign of some tragic destiny.
In this sense, it seems interesting to note how in Celtic culture the spiral represents the creative force of the Mother Goddess, and so it is curious how, perhaps unconsciously, Tsuchida connected this element with his mother.
In Tsuchida’s artwork, the spiral has changed from the ideogram of suffering – acquiring as his own the creative experience of French artist Sophie Calle – into the symbol of the ultimate meaning of art and its most profound substance, an ideogram that represents it in all of its complexity and in all of its aspects.
The symbol, the ideogram, the reduction of complex realities to a figure, making them fit into his own personal alphabet, is one of the characteristics of Tsuchida’s artwork, which brings him close to some of the experiences of abstract proto-culture.
Tsuchida combines his work as a painter with that of the glass master, he explores everyday forms from both a formal and esthetic point of view.
His production, closely tied to the resolution of aspects and realities of everyday life into a simple geometric form, thus includes a number of works dedicated to the Japanese cultural tradition.
A trip to Kyoto and wandering through the streets of Gion, the old quarter of the ancient Imperial capital, provides Tsuchida, who has been away from Japan for so long, with thoughts on the culture, tradition and world of the geiko.
These thoughts generate a series of glass objects with dramatic sculptural impact: a black square with colored edges, the esthetic distillation of a traditional kimono, rectangles that represent the essence of the form of combs made to hold the intricate styles of raven-black hair in place, oblong forms reminiscent of the theories of sandals left outside the tea room by the geiko, round and flat forms, like the mouths of the geiko, marked by heavy red makeup.
An exploration that invades other forms shaped in glass, where our artist, using the ancient technique of the murrina, seeks to reproduce the color and substance of bamboo, the dominant element in the life and art of Japan.
In describing artists such as Tsuchida, one is in danger of leaving the impression that they are fragmentary, the work appears discontinuous; but I think that this problem applies exclusively to the critic who tends to simplify to make things easier, and not to the artist, who on the contrary, finds strength and creative energy in his polyhedric action.
I would like to open a brief parenthesis dedicated to a group of works by Tsuchida, a series of sculptures made in “camiciato” glass, which our artist presents in an innovative form, working the material like marble, creating compositions full of poetry and original solutions.
In this exhibition, a precise critical decision chose to present the works in strict relation to antique Chinese and European furniture, most of it created in the eighteenth century, indulging the taste for “Chinoiserie”.
Thus a series of references is created that goes beyond the banal level of understanding the relationship between west and east, and finds deeper meaning in Murano glass, which is reinterpreted in an unexpected way by an artist from the Orient, whose works, as the master Senju Hiroshi writes, “will become the spiritual support for those who live in the XXI century.”
Perhaps for the first time the spiral, like a graphic non sense, will close in upon itself.
Milan, March 1 2006