The Interplay of Time and Space: Katsura Okada
Courtesy of the artist
As I walked on 25th Street in the direction of the A.I.R. Gallery where Katsura Okada was exhibiting her latest works, I saw a billboard on a breezeway about 30 feet above my head. The text printed on it, credited to Patrick Mimran, read, "A good work of art is something that gives you goose pimples." I remember thinking that it was perhaps a good definition that maybe I already had my angle.
Approximately seventy steps later, I saw Okada’s twin contributions to the group show and was struck. The goose pimples came on slowly and with diligence.
I looked at the first work and felt its violence. In fact, the word "violent" came to mind early and often in my inspection. The piece, The Sky of Sublimation, is a sheet of handmade Japanese paper with vertical red strokes covering its width, resembling a lifeline. The red is deeper toward the middle of the thick horizontal result, with sudden violent spikes coming off, as though the brush stroke is animated.
Then my eyes drifted downward, from Sky’s wall to a long, low table which anchors the second work. This work, Canon: History: Cycles… #1-3, is comprised of 302 sheets of rolled rice paper laid out in a pattern of three concentric ovals. Each scroll is dipped in the same rose-hued dye used in Okada’s companion piece. Some scrolls absorb the dye for only a couple inches on each side, some are saturated the whole way through. This Canon gave me a feeling of warm, earthy peace as I looked down upon it.
Yet it is the extreme contrast between the pieces to which I attribute the goose pimples. As I looked from one work to the other, the same strong feelings would grip me. I realized that this was a very primal conflict, one of history versus art, and that it serves as the stage on which Okada’s lines perform their dance. Canon’s rice papers are transparent, suggesting a fluidity and transience of the past and future. These notions of time are, however, subservient to Sky’s static template, fixed at four corners, incapable of the whimsy in three dimensions that Canon’s scrolls allow the viewer to indulge in. The construction of Canon allows each paper a strength, and independent growth; however, each roll’s ink expresses less freedom, perhaps hinting toward the guiding pattern which Sky’s wild ink scrawls express. A question naturally arises: "Is art free, or must it follow the rules of the world it seeks to illuminate?" This is a paradox that Okada’s artwork does not avoid nor, wisely, does it answer.