A YOUNG JAPANESE ARTIST TRANSFORMS SPACE WITH LITTLE MORE THAN A PENCIL AND AN ERASER
by Edward M. Gómez
TOKYO — The artist Momoko Suzuki, who was born in Kanagawa Prefecture, to the south-southwest of Tokyo, and who graduated in 2009, with honors, from Central Saint Martins (a division of the University of the Arts London), is here, there, and everywhere.
Describing herself as someone who “lives and works internationally,” today she is based in Tokyo but she has created site-specific, performance-based works of art in Japan, England, and Hong Kong. Despite the many obstacles thrown up by the recent, long pandemic, she has remained active and on the move.
We caught up with Suzuki a few weeks ago on the occasion of the opening of her latest solo exhibition in a most unlikely, unexpected location — a little hair salon and gallery located in a small, nondescript building in Tokyo’s Omotesandō district. A popular center of global, luxury-brand stores, off its main avenue Omotesandō is also a maze of narrow streets filled with fashion boutiques, cafés, specialty shops, galleries, and plenty of hair salons.
By the time her exhibition opened, Suzuki already had covered a large portion of the back wall of a small chamber that served as her gallery and workspace with a sprawling pencil drawing whose bulbous forms spilled forth and spread out organically — and unstoppably — like some kind of mysterious vegetal or cellular growth.
Within her still-unfolding composition-in-progress, shapes that recalled paisley patterns or overlapping rows of strangely curling lips marched across the wall. Suzuki showed her visitors her modest tools: mechanical drawing pencils and erasers. She pointed to a growing mound of eraser dust lining the baseboard immediately beneath her ambitious artwork and said, “This dust is part of the art-making process and can be seen as part of the artwork, too.”
The power of Suzuki’s art derives from the simplicity of her tools and the unexpected oomph she manages to squeeze out of her humble materials — all in the service of big ideas about what a drawing can be, the form it can take, and the power of the image it offers to grab attention, charm, mystify, and seduce.
Suzuki refers collectively to the site-specific works she has been creating as her “No-titled Drawing Project.” The artist regards the making of her site-specific pencil drawings on walls as performances in time and space; she is interested in formlessness — in formless form — and in repetitive actions. After one of her works has been completed, it is painted over, and its support surface is returned to its original state. Often she creates her drawings in conjunction with theatrical productions or in unusual exhibition spaces.
In written remarks the artist shared with visitors to her recent Tokyo presentation, Suzuki observed, “Drawing is intuitive. It is a visual language based on individual experience. It’s beyond all racial, cultural, gender, [and] religious discrimination. Because of these reasons, it’s hard to misinterpret; it’s purely devoted to representing one’s imagination. In [my] drawing projects, audiences can join and experience the process of making.”
[Scroll down to see more photos and videos of works from Momoko Suzuki’s recent exhibition.]