Look at the clematis flower in the picture above. Lovely isn’t it? Delicate petals, intense colour, finely-veined leaves…you’d be surprised if I told you it was made of wood. Well, it is. That’s what Yoshihiro Suda does – he carves plants so finely that you’d think they were the real thing. His current exhibition of five works at the Faggionato Gallery on Albemarle St is, like his flowers, small but beautifully formed.
Suda studied at Tama Art University in Tokyo in the 1990’s, a time when art was conceptually-based and required a good grounding in art theory to make it accessible. Suda wanted to do something different; to make art that was decorative, attractive and naturalistic. The kind of art that traditional sculptors had produced in the past – that actually resembled the real life original and could be understood by anybody. So he taught himself to carve and set out to reproduce the ordinary, everyday plants that were his subjects as accurately as he could.
For Suda, the interaction between his works and the space in which they are displayed is important. He sets out deliberately to add an element of surprise to the gallery space. Take the single work on display in the first room of the gallery – Rose.
It’s mounted high up on the wall above your head – you can’t go up to it and peer at it closely because it’s too far way. If you didn’t look up you wouldn’t see it at all. And when you do see it, it’s the loose petal that draws your eye, looking as though it might drop down on your head at any moment, disconcertingly.
The two carvings of clematis in the main gallery are displayed in juxtaposition to works by Francis Bacon; Suda draws your attention away from from his carvings so that the first thing you look at is not his work at all.
One of the clematis is set so far away and low down on the wall that you almost wonder what it’s doing there.
He draws your eye away even more strongly in Morning Glory, which is on display among the chairs of the viewing room, almost hidden in a corner, dwarfed by the colourful abstract on the walll. Close up, it’s beautiful, but you have to work to find it.
The most extreme example of this approach is Weeds in the main gallery. I was told before I went in that there were three works in the room but one was hard to find. Even though I was on the look out for the third I failed to spot it until it was pointed out to me – a tiny speck of green under the radiator, so natural-looking that I wondered for a moment if my leg was being pulled.
I wasn’t allowed to touch the weeds to verify that they really were carved from wood – they were far to fragile for that. But I did touch the Morning Glory and it really is wood.
There’s something charming about the modesty with which Suda shows you his work. It’s painstakingly carved and painted, but you’re not asked to revere it – merely to notice it.
If you want to see it, the exhibition is on until 16th August at the Faggionato Gallery on Albemarle St, close to Green Park tube station. It’s open Tuesday to Friday 10am-5pm. The gallery’s on the first floor – ring the bell to get in.