Ōki Izumi – Gillo Dorfles


Overlapping rectangular glass sheets to form complex constructions has become a Ōki Izumi’s constant means of expression. It is a means which, transparent and yet rigid, evanescent yet solid, acts as both an incentive and a restraint on the Japanese artist’s imagination. A restraint insofar as the glass is a fragile,monochromatic material; it is
cold and hardly pliable. An incentive insofar as it allows the greatest variety of combinations: from the simplest of surface, to elementary polyhedra, to an expanse of complex constructions. These constructions are almost architectonic, miniature works of architecture such as those made with Lego, but where the playfulness has become a type of visionary projection.
Ōki (who has lived in Italy some twelve years) began these quasi-architectonic constructions in the 1980s. Her intention was to build a sort of utopian city in which each “building” reveals the mysteries of its internal space through the transparency of its walls. The miniature walls, floors, and stairways allow the viewer to conceive of the buildings at once as permanent and ephemeral, unsubstantial and eternal. This would explain how the sculptor could conceive of her project for the Bridge of the Academy in Venice, designed completely in glass and constituting a kind of opus magnum, a crowning touch to complete this architectural phase of her work.
Perhaps it is this very contrast between the rigidity, the severity of the glass sheets and their evanescence which has attracted Ōki’s creative energies. On one hand it calls upon her concern for precision, for numerical order, her nearly obsessive investigation into harmonic and numerical proportions (not at all what is ordinarily considered a Far Eastern way of thinking). On the other hand, it brings to light the sense of a void (a recurring idea in Zen), of spacing, of opened/closed, all well- expressed through the use of glass. Thus we have witnessed how the artist has gradually moved away from a rather overinsistent and confining rigor which affiliated her work with much of minimal art, relegating her work in a airy limbo yet trapped by an unyielding geometry.
This gradual change has acted in her favor: it has lead her to a more mature, more complex phase in which she takes particular advantage of the material’s luminosity and transparency. These changes have allowed her to execute vast compositions and true “environments” (such as that at the Progetto Volpini gallery, whereby the entire space was brought alive by the modular, complex construction of isolated, yet inter- flowing, elements).
In leaving aside architectonic constructions and elementary geometric forms, other compositions have arisen: in these, through the skillfully calculated clefts of the single panes of glass and the resulting incidence of the light, Ōki Izumi has created a variety of forms. These works bring to light, through their transparent mass (and through her aforementioned technique of spacing/overlapping), mysterious signs: some curved, other spiral, some describing letters of the alphabet. These signs stand out ethereal and floating within the context of the work, whether this takes the shape of a parallelepiped, or describes more complex structures ( such as her recent “chairs”, or metal cases) in which ( or in the backrest of which), the vitreous mass becomes almost an organic element, a translucent, ghostly vision. Thus, the forms are created by the incidence of light bouncing off the spaces determined by the clefts of the overlapping panes. They add a different, softer images to the previous geometrical “rigor,” the embodiment of an immaterial yet fixed and eternal core within the matrix of the glass.

January 1991