Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Mariko Mori, Rebirth, Royal Academy of Arts

Mariko Mori, Rebirth, Royal Academy of Arts

Having not heard of Mariko Mori before I made my way to the Royal Academy in Burlington Gardens with no notion of what I was to see or what to expect. Nothing could have prepared me for this exhibition nor the feelings and emotions it made me feel. It is indeed an experience; both subliminal and academic.

Mariko Mori is a well established and prominent artist in Japan. Her art is rooted in both traditional and contemporary culture, between East and West and between the spiritual and material world. Mori explores themes that encompass Buddhism, spirituality, Celtic traditions and cyberspace. She explores her fascination with ancient cultures such as the Jomon period in Japan (13,000 to 300 BCE) and Celtic traditions in Europe and her belief in cycles of death and rebirth. Mankind is put in harmony with its natural surroundings and there is a respect for nature and a connection to ancient ceremonies, meditations and cosmic energy forces which she likes to term ‘universal consciousness’.

Already as you walk up the steps on your way to the exhibition there is an arresting concave shaped object hanging from the ceiling. I must say I found it mesmerising - as I would the rest of the exhibition! Its yellow, pale shape as two embryonic-like objects embrace each other made me think immediately of birth and death, the body and the connection between the spiritual and material world and this was even before I read the introduction to Mori and her exhibition. The first installation of the exhibition is called Ton Na Hiu II and is made of glass and stainless steel. It is a massive concave structure that is positioned at the end of a completely white room. It pulses with a dancing light inside and is both peaceful yet energising, beautiful, womb-like. You learn that it is connected in real time to a computer at the Institute of Cosmic Ray Research at the University of Tokyo and reflects the presence of different types of neutrinos (form of dark matter) within the Earth’s atmosphere. Its Gaelic translation is ‘hill of yew trees’ and is thus associated with fairies, mythical events and rest for transmigrating souls.

Mori uses flat moonstone many times throughout the exhibition. One of the central installations is called Miracle – 2001. Made from cibachrome prints, glass, crystal and metal salt we see several round installations with vibrant, vivid colours inside which are pictures of various sphere like forms and bubbles. All the pictures are oddly both restful yet dynamic filling the viewer with a positivity and energy. There is also an eerie and strange beauty to these hanging pieces of art. Juxtaposed to this is a piece, named White Hole – 2008 which is a beautiful dense white sphere placed on mixed media and paper. The white hole considers the possibility of a presence beyond the all consuming energy of the black hole. To look at it is remarkably beautiful and restful.

I admired every single work of art in her exhibition and many of them inspired strong emotions within me. One of the highlights of the exhibition is called Sand Pillar and records Mori’s attempts to find locations in the world where the winter solstice can be chanelled by the combination of a moonstone and a sand pillar. She use moonstone circles as there is a mystery surrounding the stone circles with is generally believed to be associated with religious ceremony and new cycles of life. Mori tells us that she hopes to install six similar installations in six locations around the world. There is much photographic footage of her experiment and a lengthy explanation of what she is trying to achieve.

Certainly you should go and visit the Royal Academy to view this incredible range of art and to have the Mariko Mori experience. Perhaps it will not have the same effect on you as it did me but it is well worth a look. As for me I shall be making sure I am aware of every one of this artist’s next steps!

by Larissa Woolf, Arts Editor,

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