Detail of a wall drawing by Momoko Suzuki from her recent exhibition in Tokyo. Photo courtesy of the artist

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.

Close-up of Momoko Suzuki’s untitled pencil work-in-progress on display at a hair salon in Tokyo, April 2023. Photo by Edward M. Gómez

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.

The artist Momoko Suzuki (left, with face mask) discussing her untitled pencil drawing-in-progress with a visitor in Tokyo, April 2023. Photo by Edward M. Gómez

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.

Momoko Suzuki, untitled work-in-progress (on the back wall) and a work on panel (right) on display at a small hair salon in Tokyo, April 2023; both works made with pencil. Photo by Edward M. Gómez

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.

Detail of one of the main, repeated shapes that appeared in Momoko Suzuki’s untitled work-in-progress on display in Tokyo, April 2023. Photo by Edward M. Gómez

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.]

A video view of Momoko Suzuki’s site-specific drawing-in-progress on display at a small hair salon in Tokyo, April 2023. Video by Edward M. Gómez
A work in pencil on panel by Momoko Suzuki on display in Tokyo, April 2023. Photo by Edward M. Gómez
Video close-up of the eraser dust produced in the making of Momoko Suzuki’s site-specific wall drawing in Tokyo, April 2023. Video by Edward M. Gómez
Mechanical pencils and plastic erasers are the humble tools the artist Momoko Suzuki uses to create her site-specific drawings. These were the items she had on her worktable at the hair salon/gallery in Tokyo. Photo by Edward M. Gómez
Momoko Suzuki works with any imperfections in a wall that serves as the support surface for one of her drawings, including paint-blob protrusions, plaster or paint cracks, or tape lines that appear where sections of a wall panel have been joined together. Photo by Edward M. Gómez
Another detail from Momoko Suzuki’s site-specific wall drawing in Tokyo, April 2023. Photo courtesy of the artist