Dream Road ("Yumeji")
September - October 2020Discover the exhibition
Dream Road ("Yumeji")
«夢路» Dream Road
Sept 16 — Oct 24, 2020
Perrotin Tokyo is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new works by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, marking his first gallery exhibition in Japan. The exhibition displays a new series of glass sculptures and gold leaf paintings that are never seen before.
For his first solo show in Japan since his retrospective exhibition in 2012 at the Hara Museum, Othoniel continues his exploration of nature in a contemplative approach by presenting new abstract and sensuous artworks: the Kiku, inspired by the Chrysanthemum flower and its symbolism in ancient Japanese culture.
With his installation showcasing sculptures as precious sacred talismans and calligraphic paintings as icons , Jean-Michel Othoniel recreates inside of Perrotin gallery an enclosed forbidden garden with chrysanthemum flower, a dream world he named «Yumeji» (夢路 – translated as «Dream Road»). The word Yumeji bears a dual meaning, which is «to dream» and also «to meet someone you love in dreams» as it appears in ancient Japanese poems (waka), published in the historical collections «Kokin Wakashu» and «Gosen Wakashu», in the 900s AD.
By naming his exhibition Yumeji, Othoniel shows his romantic vision of the world and how such simple things as flowers are keys to emotions, a dream road to fantasies and imagination; a way of looking at the world and see the marvels that surround us. For Othoniel, what is real is a continual source of symbol and wonder.
«The chrysanthemum flower is one of the most important and symbolic flowers in Japan. Known as the flower that blooms during autumn as the winter approaches it has come to be a symbol of longevity and rejuvenation. I very much like this idea of a flower blooming against all odds, fighting to marvel as its surrounding has already began to fall asleep. It is one of the last blooming flower of the Year.» Jean-Michel Othoniel.
Originally imported from China to Japan in the eighth century as medical herbs, chrysanthemum was admired by the court and aristocracy during the Heian and Kamakura period as a symbol of longevity. In September as the flowers bloomed, people accumulated the dewdrops on the flowers by covering them with pieces of cloth in the evening and wiped their body with the wet aromatic cloth the following morning to purify their spirit and wish for longevity. Based on this custom, the combination of chrysanthemum and dewdrops became a recurrent motif in classic poems (waka) and literature, which melancholically romanticized the flower’s eternal life in contrast to the fragile and ephemeral nature of human life.
Put on display on pedestals carefully playing with colours, the installation of these elegant sculptures evoke the overwhelming displays the artist discovered during his numerous visits at the Bunkyo Chrysanthemum Festival. By creating crystallized Chrysanthemums made of glass beads, his signature material since the end of the 1990s, and by exhibiting these Japanese autumn symbols in Spring, Othoniel subtly reverses seasons. Frozen in glass, the artist’s chrysanthemums are protected, forever blooming in an eternal youth. Nature is thus preserved, almost sacralized.
The Kiku sculptures are organic in form, ambiguous, halfway between plants and knots, referring also to love and the art of tying knotting in Japanese culture. Offering the alluring visual experience consistent in Othoniel’s sculptural work, the enigmatic forms of these mirrored knots recall the fatal seductiveness of a trap while the bright and shimmering colours of the glass are as eye-catching.
«I always made a point to create works stimulating all senses: a desire to lick or to touch, for example, shapes evoking «the beauty of tight binding». The attractiveness of mirrored glass playing with the sight of the beholder work as a trap as well, since one can see his reflection in the knot sculpture in front of him/her, and thus free his imagination. There is more than meets the eye, these erotic flowers are both attractive and dangerous, just as Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil). «Cultured nature» as one could say.» Jean-Michel Othoniel
« Othoniel is building a history of nature—nature challenged, nature over culture, cultured nature. » Natasha Boas
The artist continues playing with a sense of contrast in his large-format paintings on canvas, almost abstract images made in black ink on layers of white gold leaf. These gigantic hallucinative shadows of flowers painted by Othoniel refer to a more anxious vision of the world. As an opposition to the bright and colorful garden shown in the main space of the gallery, these dark and abstract calligraphies invite the viewer into pure abstraction and contemplation. The Kiku paintings show the artist’s fondness for the art of drawing that is at the very core of his practice since the beginning of his work.