CHIHO AOSHIMA: REBIRTH OF THE WORLD
MAY 2 – OCT 4 2015
Seattle Asian Art Museum
Here’s what I love about Chiho Aoshima’s show, in a nutshell: the repetition of the theme of the delicate sylph whose flatulence creates smoke clouds billowing from volcanos while Buddha and entourage look on.
Aoshima’s digital and hand drawns are in the superflat style, but whereas the tween-girl characters of Mr.’s show had cutesy moe details, like bandaids and pigtails, Aoshima’s figures reject that aesthetic. Her mural-size piece Rebirth and the video installation Takaamanohara have been compared to Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights.
Her pieces draw on Buddhist imagery, and the Rebirth image of the femininely androgynous figures parading through the destruction and rebirth of the world — some of them killing each other with axes. The figures are active in their own settings, oblivious to the viewer; The Red-Eyed Tribe consists of figures staring back at the viewer, but they’re generally involved in something, not just posing or posturing for the pleasure of the viewer in the way that some superflat art uses feminine figures as object, not subject.
The installation for her drawings uses her own art as background on the walls:
The animation cycle is a great example of transmedia/new media and is an amalgamation of her digital and drawn work. The sound design and the sheer complexity of the action in the videoTakaamanohara, which loops to depict a volcanic eruption and tsunami destroying a somewhat anthropomorphized landscape and the rebuilding thereof, is a delight. The buildings from city glow cry out in pain and are tended to by humanoid figure; UFOs lift ships from the sea; garden fairies flit and a volcanic nymph, well, farts.
This is the first time Aoshima’s watercolors have been displayed, and I fell in love with her Moimoi character, a rounded imaginary creature who also stares back at the viewer. No matter how abstract or cute, her subjects have agency.
From the SAAM:
Welcome to the fantastic world of Chiho Aoshima. This might just be our future.
Who’s to say that as technology advances, as natural disasters rise, as the organic world blends with the manmade, that smartphones will not become smart buildings? That skyscrapers will not stand up and walk among mountains? That ghosts and spirits don’t already float through our world?
Aoshima’s work has undeniably dark images but a positive attitude. There’s no evidence of fear in her art. Her murals, digital prints, and drawings don’t want to escape from society or from the future. Instead, she seems to embrace all possibilities, including a world where the skeletons and ghosts reside alongside the rest of us.
Her work may look like a surreal fantasy. But ask Aoshima, and she’ll tell you she’s showing us the reality that our beautifully chaotic world may be hurtling toward.
When asked about her inspiration, Aoshima answered, “The evolution of human civilization 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 the images of buildings and mountains.”
This is the future—and she’s prepared to live in it.
I got to see this twice, including once with Toranosuke from Nubui Kuduchi–looking forward to hearing his thoughts, too!
*The figures have slender bodies; curves of breasts but no nipples or secondary sex characteristics; long hair; and no apparent genitalia. I feel weird dubbing them either feminine or androgynous–they’re both.