Perrotin Hong Kong is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Chiho Aoshima featuring a selection of digital animation, sculptures, and hand-painted works. This marks the artist's premiere presentation in Hong Kong and her first solo show with Perrotin in Asia.
In the fantastical images Chiho Aoshima has created—whether in her early digitally created work or her most recent experimentation with hand-painted ceramics—buildings turn into fairy-like creatures; trees walk and talk; nymphs wander the graveyard; and even in apocalyptic images, such as of tsunamis, one sees a new world thriving after the end of the world. Her work kindles our imagination for an otherworld that is invisible to us yet is all around us.
Aoshima first attracted global attention for the fascinating otherworldly imagery she created using Adobe Illustrator in the early 2000s. The digital medium offers the versatility for the output of her images: they can be printed as inkjet or chromogenic prints of any size, and can be mounted on plexiglas as a framed work or cover an entire wall as a mural. Aoshima's mural installations at London's Gloucester Road Underground station and at New York's Union Square Subway station turned her digitally generated art into large-scale public art, prompting even indifferent and harried New Yorkers pause and pay attention to her anthropomorphic skyscrapers.
With no formal training in art, Aoshima has been practicing watercolour drawings, and produced several hundred pieces in the past several years. In some works, characters exchange lively conversations in speech bubbles. A skull says to a bunny: 'Didn't you know? When we die, we all become skulls!' In other works, dialogue is revealed in the title. Moimoi, an avatar of Aoshima, likes playing around in nature and graveyards in particular. As she is about to enter a grave, she beckons to her cat friend, 'It's a bit tight, but come on in!' Through Moimoi, it feels as if we can enter Aoshima's fantasy world: we can hear her talking to other creatures lingering in the graveyards, and see her getting excited or frustrated, concerned or relieved.
Aoshima's imagery of spirits, goddesses, nymphs, plants, and even buildings, already bursting with life in her paintings, gained even more vivacity in her video work. Her collaboration with the New Zealand-based animation designer Bruce Ferguson has resulted in some of her most compelling works to date. City Glow (2005), Aoshima's first animation work, creates a cyclical narrative in which a day elapses in a seven-minute loop. Takaamanohara (2015), a multiple-channel video projection with 3D soundscape, debuted in Seattle in 2015 and subsequently was shown in Tokyo and other places. In this work, the whole world undergoes a life cycle in a seven-minute loop. An enchanting landscape populated by anthropomorphic buildings, spirited animals, and fairy-like figures is born in the wake of a volcano eruption, but has to be rebuilt following a devastating tsunami. The 64-foot panorama is filled with a great deal of intriguing details such as a walking Tokyo tower and buzzing insects. There is no way to take in all of it in a single viewing of the seven-minute loop, or perhaps ever.
A casual suggestion from a potter friend four years ago prompted Aoshima to venture into ceramics. Hand-moulded and intimately sized, these ceramic characters—Moimoi among others—come to life in three dimensions. Feeling she may have found a better medium, Aoshima is currently devoting her energy in making ceramics, challenging herself to create larger sized works.
Aoshima's deep interest in Japan's religious traditions, Shinto in particular, is evident in her work. She believes in something spiritual that transcends the 'sad but unescapable realities of this world,' and in the cycle of death and rebirth. Takaamanohara, where Japanese Shinto deities reside, is one such heavenly place where the world is reborn. When asked about her inspiration for this, Aoshima answered: 'The evolution of human civilisation is great; humankind thinks nature precious, but it is difficult for humankind and nature to coexist. I represented these two souls that cannot understand each other through images of buildings and mountains.'
Female figures have been the sole subject of Aoshima's work. When asked about this, she responded by recalling sketching in her diary as a young girl. 'When I draw, I always feel as though I am a little girl myself. Just as when I was little, I still cannot draw a boy or a man.' Perhaps just as Moimoi is Aoshima's avatar in the enchanted world, the fantastical world in Aoshima's art is an avatar of an invisible otherworld.
Text by Dr. Xiaojin Wu Curator of Japanese and Korean Art, Seattle Art Museum. Courtesy Perrotin.