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Arts preview: Miya Ando adds lustre to her works in "Light Metal"

Edmund Lee

 

LIGHT METAL
Sundaram Tagore Gallery

 

Miya Ando takes a curiously long breath when she's asked about the common labelling of her as a post-minimalist. "I usually let critics and writers say things like that," says the New York-based artist slowly, before bursting into laughter. "I think it's best for artists to describe their works in the most straightforward, truthful and honest way possible."

And then she can't resist. "These labels interest me, of course. I don't really describe myself that way while I'm discussing my work - I don't disagree, and I have a lot of respect for the lineage of art history, including the minimalists and the post-minimalists - but I also have a lot of respect for, for example, the philosophy of Zen Buddhism that inspired the minimalists."

In her solo exhibition at Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Ando has a selection of her abstract paintings on burnished steel and anodised aluminium. "The light reflecting back at us is part of the piece," she says. "It's not only the colour, but also the light. The idea is to use an industrial material [such as canvas] and transform it to look like something in nature - something elemental like the sky or water."

Ando is fascinated with the juxtaposition of the "permanent" solid metal sheets she paints on, and the "transient" changing light reflected by them. Judging by her decade-long exploration of the impermanence, one could make a convincing case that Buddhist philosophy has been at the very core not just of this artist's practice, but also her life story.

"Half-Asian and half-white" by her own account, and sharing the surname of her Japanese mother's family, Ando spent her earliest years living in the Okayama temple of her grandfather, who was a master swordsmith before becoming a Buddhist priest. At the age of five, Ando returned to her birth place, the US, and grew up in a redwood forest in California.

The religious worldview of her family and the sublime beauty of nature have both continued to inform Ando's work as an artist. Whether she's applying another layer of resin or pigment to her paintings - some of which may consist of up to 30 layers and take two or three months to finish - she's inevitably associating the daily ritual with her earliest memories.

"I work seven days a week," says Ando. "Usually I'll do a layer every day. I like that ritual of sitting down and doing something day after day after day. When I was sleeping as a little girl, I would hear my grandfather chanting Buddhist prayers every single morning: winter, summer; rain or shine. I find that very comforting."

edmund.lee@scmp.com

 

Sundaram Tagore Gallery, 57-59 Hollywood Road, Central, Monday-Saturday, 10am-7pm, Sunday, 11am-7pm. Ends March 22. Inquiries: 2581 9678

 

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