The first thing you need to know about the Mariko Mori exhibition at the Royal Academy is that it’s not where you think it is. Swanning into the main entrance on Piccadilly will get you nowhere – it’s round the back in the new Burlington Galleries on Burlington Street. If you get it wrong, nip down the Burlington Arcade and turn right. The other thing you need to know is that it’s unexpectedly entertaining. Or it is if, like me, you find being guided down narrow curving pathways in the dark by an attendant with a little torch a bit giggle-making.
To be serious, it’s a well laid-out exhibition that makes generous use of the new gallery space. Much of Mori’s work is large scale and is best seen in the dark – for instance Tom Na H-iu II where a great glass monolith – ‘like a Celtic standing stone’ – pulsates with light in response to neutrinos emitted during the explosive death of a star via a linkup with the computer at the Kamioka Observatory, and the White Hole installation that conversely speaks of the rebirth of a star.
I liked the circular computer-generated images of bubbles and hazy glows in the main display area. Less successful for me were her works on paper – rather cute pastel designs on white with a hint of glitter, which I found a bit too reminiscent of Christmas cards (must be the time of year).
The Primal Rhythm project is fascinating though, for reasons that will be obvious, it could only be represented by photographs and film. It’s a project to build a Sun Pillar and a Moon Stone at Seven Light Bay, Miyako Island, off Okinawa. The Moon Stone will glow different colours with the changing of the tides and the Sun Pillar will cast a long shadow directly onto the Moon Stone at the winter solstice. Only the Sun Pillar has so far been built.
I was excited to discover her work references back to art of the Jomon period, particularly their stone circles (some of the works on display involved arrangements of stones) and was very taken with Flat Stone, where stones had been arranged around an acrylic cast of a Jomon pot.
A handy point to remind you that the British Museum Jomon Pots exhibition (see my post here) will close in January, so make sure you get there soon.
Although Mariko Mori was born in Tokyo and is represented by Japanese gallery SCAI The Bathhouse, she studied at the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London and now lives and works in New York. Her work references both prehistoric art and our connectedness with nature and the exhibition has been timed to coincide with the winter solstice.
If you fancy a Mariko Mori of your own, they were selling her stones in the shop in the entrance hall.
Plus, if you’re a Brian Cox fan, here’s a date for your diary – 8 February 2013 at 6.30 to 7.30pm. Mariko Mori and Professor Brian Cox in conversation, talking about how Mori’s artistic practice progresses the tradition of imaginative engagement with science. It’s at the Royal Institution and costs £12.
The exhibition has just opened and runs until 17 February 2013.