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  • Sep 27, 2023

Shinji Ohmaki’s “The Depth of Light” at A4 Art Museum in Chengdu

Detail of SHINJI OHMAKI’s Echoes Infinity, 2023, pigments, felt carpet, fluorescent light, cloth, and mirror. Courtesy A4 Art Museum and Mind Set Art Center. 

Shinji Ohmaki: “The Depth of Light”
A4 Art Museum
Chengdu, China
August 19–November 19, 2023

After three years of meticulous preparation, the highly anticipated solo exhibition of acclaimed Japanese contemporary artist Shinji Ohmaki, titled “The Depth of Light,” celebrated its grand inauguration at A4 Art Museum in Chengdu, China. Curated by the renowned Fumio Nanjo, a distinguished senior advisor at Mori Art Museum, and Sunny Sun, the founding director of the A4 Art Museum, the exhibition provides a comprehensive exploration of the artist’s creative journey across various periods, coupled with profound philosophical contemplations on the intricate interplay between humanity and its natural surroundings. Occupying three entire floors of the museum, it showcases 15 distinct series of artworks, collectively representing Ohmaki’s most iconic and influential pieces to date. Visitors would encounter a diverse array of artistic expressions, including dynamic installations, sculptures, paintings, and a video, all encapsulating the artist's remarkable oeuvre. 

To fully present the artist’s central theme of employing light to illuminate the trajectories of existence, this exhibition has been thoughtfully curated to guide visitors along a transformative viewing path, transitioning from luminance to obscurity. This meticulously crafted journey encourages viewers to appreciate the often unnoticed and undervalued beauty within life while immersing them in Ohmaki’s art. Notably, the monumental installation, Gravity and Grace (2016), soaring to a staggering height of seven meters, beckons the audience into profound contemplation. It prompts us to question the true essence of time, ponder our intricate relationship with the world around us, and confront the elusive nature of existence with unwavering courage and a resolute gaze toward life's enigmatic complexities. 

SHINJI OHMAKI, Grace and Gravity, 2016, 7 x dia. 4 m, stainless steel, LED lights, and mechanical device. Courtesy A4 Art Museum and Mind Set Art Center. 

The title draws inspiration from the renowned French philosopher Simone Weil’s eponymous book, offering a glimpse into what Weil eloquently termed a “synopsis of a world beyond time.” Within this captivating creation, Ohmaki harnesses the power of intense light, often referred to as the “artificial sun,” a radiant force that invokes contemplation akin to the momentary brilliance ignited by the Big Bang—an awe-inspiring and incredible luminosity that seizes our imagination. Following this dazzling burst of illumination, a profound question emerges, which lingers as an eternal, unresolved enigma: Do we confront the looming abyss of annihilation, or do we embrace the glimmer of rebirth and renewal? Within this ambiguity, the human spirit grapples with its own fate, a relentless quest that may necessitate the enduring endurance of suffering. Ohmaki’s creative odyssey appears to transcend the boundaries of human limitation, urging us to ponder the intricate relationship between the corporeal and the ethereal aspects of humanity—the “flesh and soul.” As we engage with his work, it beckons us to reflect on the profound mysteries that shroud our existence and navigate the intricate tapestry of our shared human experience. 

Details of SHINJI OHMAKI, Grace and Gravity, 2016, 7 x dia. 4 m, stainless steel, LED lights, and mechanical device. Courtesy A4 Art Museum and Mind Set Art Center. 

Emerging from the captivating interplay of light and shadows within Gravity and Grace, we step into the enigmatic realm of Liminal Air Space-Time (2023), meticulously situated within an abyss of profound darkness. Here, a gentle black fabric gracefully drifts and undulates, orchestrating an immersive sensory encounter that transcends the conventional boundaries of perception. Within this immersive tableau, the artist masterfully captures the dynamics inherent in tangible objects, seamlessly integrating them with the intangible yet palpable elements of air, gravity, humidity, and a myriad of unseen forces that permeate the space. It is an experience that navigates the precipice of the sensory threshold. Ohmaki’s brilliant manipulation of “light” is a conduit for revealing these latent, imperceptible forces, inviting us to awaken our often-neglected awareness of the ordinary elements surrounding us.

SHINJI OHMAKI, Liminal Air Space-Time, 2023, cloth, fan, and LED light. Courtesy A4 Art Museum and Mind Set Art Center.  

The genesis of this work lies in the artist’s contemplation of “existence,” a reflection instigated by the aftermath of a catastrophic event. As we stand immersed within its ethereal embrace, Liminal Air Space-Time beckons us to engage in a contemplative dialogue regarding the very essence of our existence, ushering us into a realm of profound introspection. 

Simultaneously, Ohmaki embarks on a deep exploration of the theme of “cycles and life.” This thematic journey culminates in the captivating work Echoes Infinity, where the artist employs a breathtaking array of hundreds of mineral pigment colors, meticulously crafting a vibrant sea of botanical blooms. As the exhibition nears its conclusion, Ohmaki extends a unique invitation to the viewers—a beckoning to step into the very heart of the artwork, thus forging new imagery amid the inevitable descent into destruction. This innovative approach to artistry reimagines the floral realm, transcending the conventional narrative of mere blooming and wilting. Instead, it ushers the blossoms into a kaleidoscope of colors, seamlessly transitioning into an entirely new phase of existence. As the artist eloquently articulates: “Some things are born as others are destroyed, and I wanted to express this metamorphosis, symbolizing the intricate process of perpetual cycles and the eternal tapestry of life.” 

Detail of SHINJI OHMAKI’s Echoes Infinity, 2023, pigments, felt carpet, fluorescent light, cloth, and mirror. Courtesy A4 Art Museum and Mind Set Art Center. 

Through Ohmaki’s unique artistic expression, he confronts the fragility of life head-on, engaging in a dialogue with the viewers that reaches straight to the soul. As curator Fumio Nanjo aptly put it, “Through the grand narrative called ‘exhibition,’ Shinji Ohmaki brings us deep insights and new encounters. It will strengthen the meaning of life and give us the strength to face tomorrow.” 

*This article is presented by Mind Set Art Center in Taipei.

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