Sayaka Ishizuka: Life Threads
The artist’s first solo exhibition outside of Japan, featuring a walk-in monumental
installation constructed from rice, alongside a new series created especially for the Show.
12 May–8 August 2014
Opening reception: Sunday, 11 May 4–6pm
Pearl Lam Galleries, 181 Middle Jiangxi Road, G/F, Shanghai, China 200002
SHANGHAI—Pearl Lam Galleries is delighted to present Sayaka Ishizuka: Life Threads, the
emerging Japanese artist’s first solo exhibition in China and outside Japan, featuring 11 new
pieces especially created for the show. Works will include a site-specific installation, for which
the artist is most known, as well as mixed media on canvas, collages consisting of various coloured
chopsticks mounted on wooden boards, a collage created from rice on an acrylic light box, and
a new video.
Sayaka Ishizuka’s works explore the interconnectedness of humankind, focusing on the
stories of everyday objects and those who use them. In Japanese traditions, inanimate objects
contain traces of the holders’ spirit, as well as their personal emotions and memories. The
artist takes common overlooked items in daily life as her materials, such as grains of rice,broken plates or bowls, worn-out kimonos, photos of cherry blossoms and household items,
which are often connected with threads and suspended in the space of her site-specific
installation works, Ishizuka tacitly transforms these mundane objects into simple yet profound
spatial configurations, in which she believes the objects’ lives are linked and woven together
into the ‘thread’ of human life. In Japanese, the exhibition title literally means ‘connecting lives
Rice Deity (2014), a walk-in installation newly produced for this exhibition encompassing a
third of the gallery space, consists of 4,200 handmade strings of rice grains hung from the
ceiling, as well as used utensils and an old table collected from antique markets in Shanghai.
Ishizuka spent 18 months developing the work, which was first conceived for a 2009 project in
Echigo-Tsumari, an area known for its top quality rice production in Japan, and exhibited in an
old deserted Japanese house. The artist immersed herself in researching rice production,
living and working with rice farmers for six months. She views rice as the seeds of life,
representing warmth, nourishment and sustenance, with the threads of rice symbolising the
link between the past and the present in an infinite chain of life.
By presenting Rice Deity in Shanghai, a modern environment with its own rice culture, Ishizuka
mentioned the human affinity with rice and its centrality to lived culture in Asia are mutual in
both Japan and China, and by collecting used utensils in Shanghai, the artist creates the
connection between her work and the city’s past and history.
Waiting #1 (2014) consists of five old bobbins sourced in Japan spooled with handmade
threads of rice. The artist uses silver and gold threads to connect the grains, representing the
radiance of life. Other works which utilise rice and thread include a light box collage entitled
Journey (2014), as well as mixed media paintings Sleeping (2014) and The Rain Pours (2014),
in which cotton threads or threads of rice are attached to the canvas and covered in layers of
red, green and gold acrylic paint before being enshrouded in black oil paint. After the paint has
dried, Ishizuka carefully sands the area where the threads are, so delicate white lines emerge
from the darkness to represent the light of vitality and what the artist calls ‘life ties’.
A new series of multi-coloured collages Connection, For the Future and Genetic have also been
newly created for the exhibition. They consist of well-used chopsticks acquired from friends
and acquaintances in Japan, which are also rolled with gold and silver thread to suggest
people’s aspirations and the light of life. In these works, Ishizuka refers to an old Japanese
custom of burning chopsticks at Shinto shrines. Chopsticks were believed to contain their
owner’s soul, and it was believed that an offering would cleanse the holder spiritually. Ishizuka
refers to the notion of inner spirituality in these works. By using colour gradation and shaping
her composition, she also refers to traditional scrolls.
About Sayaka Ishizuka
Sayaka Ishizuka (b. 1980, Shizuoka, Japan) graduated from the Painting Department of
Joshibi University of Art and Design in 2004. Her quietly arresting installation and mixed
media works are matched by an attentiveness to the lived histories, cultural associations and
evocative potential of the commonplace, found objects that are frequently her chosen
medium. The idea that the universal can be accessed and expressed in art by way of the
personal is one that is realised with striking clarity and a humbling lack of self-consciousness
in the artist’s works. Taking as their medium objects unremarkable in their ready availability or
often-overlooked presence in daily life—rice, thread, used articles of clothing, utensils and
household items—and paying heed to the social and cultural associations they carry,
Ishizuka’s artwork subtly transform these items into leitmotifs for interconnectedness in the
broader sphere of human existence.
Ishizuka participated in the Wellington Asia Residency Exchange artist-in-residence
programme in New Zealand in 2009, and has exhibited in solo shows in Tokyo and Kanagawa.
Her installations have been shown widely around Japan in group exhibitions, including at the
Setouchi Triennial and Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial. The artist currently resides in Oiso,