Mark Tan


Something Has Started
ink on paper, 61 x 46cm, 2015


A Fraction of 8 Millionth 6
indian ink, white glue on handmade piña paper, 14 x 10cm, 2016


Japanese painter Atsuko Yamagata explores the visualisation of intervals and space as well as the aesthetics that these elements make possible. For space is not simply the absence of objects and the gap between subjects: voids and intervals are in themselves presences, made tangible through the act and process of perception. Form and non-form coexist: each being essential to the other’s visibility.

Yamagata’s paintings explore these dimensions of spatiality through the manipulation of layers. Here, she responds to the Japanese concept of ma: roughly translated as negative space but also denoting an awareness of the pauses and intervals between form. The artist creates new compositions using paper cutouts delicately layered over washi (Japanese handmade paper) made from piña fiber by Asao Shimura, a master papermaker based in Benguet province. Here, ma surfaces not only from the relationship of the organic forms to their background, but also within the spaces created between overlapping shapes.

Yamagata’s paintings combine sumi (black ink), acrylic, and suihi enogu, a type of natural pigment derived from mud and often used in nihonga (Japanese painting). The resulting paintings merge monochromatic and translucent shapes with flat, coloured planes. Nuanced contrasts between texture, space and tone emerge. Carefully-cut shapes and parallel stripes lend a precise, linear quality to the compositions while black ink bleeding across paper, pigment, and glue, imbue the works with a sense of quiet movement and flux.

Between Place also delves into the idea of play within and across form. The process of visualising intervals and layers also metaphorically captures the sense of in-betweeness resonating within Yamagata’s peregrine practice as an artist. Based in Manila since 2012, Yamagata has been working with space not just within the two-dimensional form of painting but also through spontaneous “live painting” performances accompanied by live music—often merging the dynamics between theatre, sound, and vision. In these overlapping areas of aesthetic experience, the idea of intervals is translated into concrete and lived encounters.