Replicas of nature


POSTED: Sunday, July 12, 2009

Japanese sculptor Yoshihiro Suda was unexpectedly bright and chipper last Monday at the Contemporary Museum. His disposition wasn't a surprise because of a bad reputation or anything of that sort; it's just that he had only hours earlier come off a long flight from Japan and had headed straight to work at the museum. Suda was to begin installing his hyper-realistic flora woodcarvings for the show that opened yesterday.

With a broad, ready smile, the artist explained that his origins in art began in graphic design, which he studied in college.

“;But I wanted to be an artist,”; he said. “;I like woodcarving, I like nature and I like contemporary art.”; So in 1993 he switched careers, and it has been going gangbusters ever since with shows all across the globe.

Suda's work showcases his ability to carve wood petals as thin as the real thing and weed sprigs as minuscule as the ones that sprout up in any garden. He works with Japanese magnolia wood, a soft yet sturdy wood, and hand-paints his creations with ground pigments mixed with a traditional Japanese binder called “;mikawa,”; a distilled rabbit-skin glue.

Suda said it took him about a month to create a magnolia for this show (he was inspired by real magnolias in the museum's gardens), while weeds take him less than a day to make. The finished works are so lifelike they fool audiences regularly.





        » Place: The Contemporary Museum, 2411 Makiki Heights Drive

» On exhibit: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 18


» Admission: $8; $6 students, seniors, military and TCM members; free to children 12 and younger


» Call: 526-1322 or visit www.tcmhi.org




SUDA CONDUCTS site visits before deciding what to create for a show. The practice is based in his belief that the exhibit space is as vital to his art as the pieces themselves.

He explained that early in his career, “;I saw a Buddhist figure in a museum. Another day, I saw the same figure in an old temple. The (experiences) were very different because the spaces were different. This had a big influence on me.

“;It takes a long time to carve a flower piece; that's just part of the work. But I need to put it somewhere to finish it. So the space is very important.”;

Suda's shows aren't what most gallery-goers are accustomed to. It's not unusual to encounter bare walls and a seemingly empty space—except, upon closer inspection, for a little sprig emerging out of a baseboard.

“;Nothing's prominent or obvious,”; said Jay Jensen, the museum's chief curator, of the artist's work. “;Suda's aesthetic is distinctive because he's not interested in displaying work in a traditional way, lined up on the wall at eye level. He reacts to the architecture in unexpected places or unexpected ways. There's always an element of discovery.

“;Because the viewer has to start looking for the art, it draws them in closer and subconsciously makes them more aware of the spatial surroundings—the surfaces, the shadows, edges and corners.”;

Suda said his interest in creating replicas of nature is rooted in his interest in architecture.

“;I am a human, and I make plants that are not real. I put my 'not-nature' in a 'not-natural' space. That's a good combo,”; he said. “;My plants don't need to be in nature because the real ones are already there. I make my works for humans, not a bee or a butterfly. That's what art is.”;