Last winter I saw the Rina Banerjee show, “What am I made of and how do you know my name?” at the Ota Fine Arts near Midtown in Tokyo. At the time I was becoming dissatisfied with the high admission costs, the overly sexualized work presented by male curators, predictable artwork by white men who were dead, and over-publicized shows that failed to deliver. A friend and I stepped into the Ota gallery and it was if we were entering a refreshing breeze.
We paid nothing to enter the gallery and were confronted with organic structures and colours that made us feel happy. The collaged sculptures and watercolour paintings did just that. Is that crime? It was obvious that she had worked hard on making the pieces, and the unusual combination of items greatly entertained and pleased us. We did not feel that the artist belittled out intelligence or tried to pull the rug over our eyes by calling something art when it was anything but. Other galleries that we had been to at that time were filled with art that disappointed or insulted us, so these pieces seemed extra appealing in contrast.
I did not take photos of the full pieces, because they were extremely hard to photograph in full and also show the details. I, however, did take photos of some details to show the interesting combinations of materials she used to make her sculptural collages.
Some of the items, such as this bamboo parasol, seemed to come from a Japanese recycling centre. This piece can also be seen on Banerjee’s website included this prose, “A heart of two anchors, take one bird and take one butcher, from ear to ear, it’s a familiar end yet she was with a wide grin, while meat and medicine poured, even played with the poverty of country, was still an unknown friend! So she withdrew her smile.”
The sculptural pieces were relatively small. In the first photo I saw in some promotional material for this show, I mistakenly thought that she had done some ikebana floral arrangements. These pink “flowers” are actually feathers and ribbons. The mauve globes in the centre are actually light bulbs with glass beads that look like eyes glued on. The spindly peacock feathers form another flower in the back. The piece can be seen on her website and included this prose, “Ground had risen to sprout new plant, uttered first spoken its difference from black black soil toward a white tight sky, a colored sapling winged but bashful gifted a diversity with one sharp bite of chromosomes monstrous as it devoured what it is in ai.”
Small glass vials are strung together to hang from what looks like a deconstructed, ornamental tree sculpture.
Soon after that I saw a picture of an installation by Judy Pfaff and I realized how similar their work was. I unfortunately was not lucky enough to see any of her installations but I did find a few videos about her on YouTube.
Both artists proved that collage can be used successfully in installations.