Even having been warned before hand that the sculptures on display were going to be much much smaller than the scale free poster suggested, it was still a shock on entering the exhibition to see the floor dotted with such tiny standing figures. Each one untitled, unelevated, seemingly unsupported (but actually held in place underneath by “gallery wax”*) and most surprisingly unfenced. The diminutive characters mill casually amongst the gallery attendees, presented equally as people in themselves rather than separated off as “the artwork”.
One of the effects of this less than usual display method is it forces the viewer to crouch in order to properly see each piece, creating a greater level of engagement than simply gazing at something which had been bought up to your eye level - again something which adds to characterisation of the figures, making them appear as more than just inanimate representations.
The craftsmanship of the sculptures is amazing, single blocks of lime wood carved into flowing hair, limply dangling cigarettes and open bags filled with page-marked books. I would disagree with Towner themselves as to it being this element alone which creates the lifelike feeling of the work, and argue rather that this exhibition is very much the sum of all its parts; the pieces and display working in perfect tandem with each other to create a single effect.
If there is any problem with Suzuki’s work however, it is the rather limiting nature of his choice of theme. Taking his characters from the “fashion and youth culture” of the area around his Hackney studio, does give you the feeling whilst wondering amongst the works, that you are crashing the worlds tiniest hipster party.
Your humble writer, in conversation with a work by Tomoaki Suzuki.
All in all though the exhibition is a triumph of both artistry and curation, I just hope that Suzuki eventually casts his keen eye over the far less fashionable masses which make up the rest of the world.
Come back soon for the thrilling second half; a general review of The Towner Gallery. In the mean time, I am off on holiday, toodleoo everyone!