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b. 1976, Japan

Koji Ryui Biography

Best known for his intricate contemporary art installations using found objects, Japanese artist Koji Ryui's practice is preoccupied with the undiscovered potential in ordinary things. His artworks recontextualise their contents, shifting the viewers' perspective of objects' formal or even sonic qualities.

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In the tradition of artists such as Fischli and Weiss, and aligned with contemporaries such as Hany Armanious and Kate Newby, Ryui turns simple items such as the humble clothes-drying rack into investigations of materiality. Often these transformations occur by placing two or more everyday objects in conversation with each other, such as the tinsel and wire of Smiley face (2014), or the filler, found stool and concrete of Mother (2014). In Cloud 2 (2014), a block of dirty polystyrene balances precariously on a section of a rack. With this simple gesture, the artist takes two pieces of junk and transforms them into an exploration of weight and weightlessness.

In Jamais Vu (2018), Ryui's site-specific installation presented on Cockatoo Island for the 21st Biennale of Sydney in 2018, the artist laid out what could be a constellation of the universe made from poly-coated wire and found spherical objects. This cosmic map was suspended from the ceiling across the entire space, while beneath, found glass vessels of various shapes sat on a large, low plinth. During the exhibition, Ryui also teamed up with musician Anna John for a sound performance within his installation.

Ryui's transformation of found items is most evident in his 'Have a Nice Day' (2013-14) series. In these works, Ryui focuses on the plastic shopping bags with a smiley-face printed on them, found at many stores across the world. He distorts the bag's smile by filling it with a cylinder of clay, giving the face a new range of emotions. Often presented in pairs, these faces inspire a sense of pathos in the viewer, especially when, for example, the figures bury their faces in the sand, peer precariously over the edge of the plinth on which they're perched, or find their head stuck in a wine glass. In these gestures, the viewer is pushed to project a new humanity onto the junk that populates their lives.

In his 'A-Un' (2016–17) series of sculptures, Ryui pushes the figurative element in his artwork even further, creating small busts out of unfired and bisque-fired clay. The busts rest on gypsum cement plinths attached to the walls. The plinths have been moulded in shapes reminiscent of polystyrene packaging, referencing the readymade elements present across other facets of his practice. While sculptural busts as a traditional form are generally valued as realistic and regal, the scale, materiality and often comical expressions of these busts reshape the form with the playful approach that defines much of the artist's practice.

Ryui lives and works in Sydney.

Casey Carsel | Ocula | 2019

Koji Ryui Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Koji Ryui, Echoer at Michael Lett, Auckland
26 July–26 August 2017 Koji Ryui Echoer Michael LettAuckland

Koji Ryui In Ocula Magazine

The National 2019: New Australian Art Ocula Feature The National 2019: New Australian Art By Elyse Goldfinch, Sydney

The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie...

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Roppongi Crossing 2013: Out Of Doubt. A Retrospective On A Retrospective Ocula Feature Roppongi Crossing 2013: Out Of Doubt. A Retrospective On A Retrospective By Stephanie Bailey, Tokyo

It took some time to reflect on Roppongi Crossing 2013: OUT OF DOUBT, and for good reason. This was the fourth edition of a triennial exhibition established in 2004 by the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. It was a sprawling retrospective of sorts, which differed to past iterations in that the focus––usually trained on young artists born...

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Koji Ryui In Related Press

The 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) announces first 21 artists for its 45th anniversary exhibition Related Press The 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) announces first 21 artists for its 45th anniversary exhibition

The world-renowned Biennale of Sydney is back next year to celebrate its 45th anniversary exhibition. Set to maintain its status as the largest and best-attended contemporary arts event in Australia, the 21st Biennale of Sydney is anticipated to once again bring an impressive and diverse range of contemporary artists and artworks to the...

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Koji Ryui at Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney Related Press Koji Ryui at Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney 17 November 2016, art guide Australia

A pebble, a metal pipe, a broken piece of a statue: these are the kinds of unwanted everyday objects that Koji Ryui collects for his practice. He likes them destabilised and disintegrated, stranded between the status of object and material. Through swift and gestural, seemingly improvisational interventions, he turns these lost causes into...

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