Youki Hirakawa: ‘Secret Fire’ Anima Mundi, St Ives

Through a mix of video, video installation and still image, this collection that obliquely explores themes of time and transience, inviting the spectator to enter a reflective world. Time slows down, senses sharpen, calm prevails and we are prompted to ponder the passage of time immemorial and mortality itself. Meaning and deference to the spiritual permeate Hirakawa’s work. Beautifully presented drawings, drawn in charcoal mined by the artist himself from a former coal mine near Leipzig – ‘ The Grain of Woods’ (x 9) – delicate and just plain lovely; and then, a single edition video installation – ‘ Vanished Tree – Teufelsberg’ – hypnotic and poignantly sensual. (Prices range from £300 to £16000. ) This is clever art; modern and unequivocally spiritual. Also, of particular note is ‘Fallen Candles’- a single line of 24 synched videos in a darkened space, of burning, fallen candles, which mesmerises. The video installations, respectively, ‘Shadow of a Frame – A Man Drawing on a Wall’ (£3600) reminds of an animated Malevich ‘Black Square’ and ‘Burning Second’ – is sad and bewitching.
My only criticism is that in places the lighting impeded full appreciation of the still images and the positioning of the monitors showing the ‘Secret Fire’ and ‘Lightning Tree – Bonfire’ videos, at uneven floor-level , leant against the wall, was throwaway and detracted rather than enhanced.
If possible view with an understanding of Hirakawa’s ambitions and concerns, and an awareness of the found materials used – read Joseph Clarke’s Introduction and ask questions of Lauren, who mans the gallery most days and helped Joseph and Youki hang the exhibition.

Guy Barkley-Smith Plymouth College of Art

Volume 30 number 6, July / August 2016 p 40

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