Kaleidoscope Canvases

Gallery Koyanagi is alive with colour as it displays the work of Federico Herrero.

poster for Federico Herrero

Federico Herrero "Colorigami"

at Gallery Koyanagi
in the Ginza, Marunouchi area
This event has ended - (2008-05-08 - 2008-06-21)

In Reviews by Naomi Crowther 2008-06-11

‘Colorigami’, Federico Herrero’s second solo show at Gallery Koyanagi, presents ten new works by the artist best remembered in Japan for his submerged paintings of world maps in swimming pools at Expo 2005 Aichi. The Costa Rican artist earlier gathered considerable attention for his mural painting at the Arsenale, during the Venice Biennale in 2001, which won the prize for young artists. He has continued to expand the conventions of traditional mural works, often infusing graffiti expression and playing with the poetics of space. The exteriors of buildings and vehicles, as well as the inside of parking garages and motorway underpasses, are some of the unexpected places that have found themselves transformed underneath Herrero’s brush. Unpredictable and sometimes bizarre, the paintings form a symbiotic relationship with the surface on which they are created, and constantly evolve as they weather and transform with the passage of time.

Federico Herrero, 'Vaca' (2008) 200 x 400cm, mixed media on canvas

To see several of his works together in a single space is to find yourself surrounded by a myriad of colours, layered in shapes that appear to grow off one another. Seen from a distance, they come across as the fragmented, distorted view you would see through a kaleidoscope. Close up, they comprise a patchwork of spontaneous and accidental but meaningful applications of paint that offer a fresh take on automatism.

A return to the basic act of painting is apparent. Oil, acrylic and spray paint are juxtaposed without tension, in turn complimenting the harmony between the colours themselves, at once vivid but all co-existing effortlessly on the canvas. These paintings instead are platforms for the imagination: their imagery remains contained within the borders of the canvas, but it is not hard to contemplate the shapes spilling off the canvas onto the surrounding walls, conveying the sense of an untamed, unstoppable stream of consciousness. The compositions are clusters of soft, rounded shapes that lend themselves to a sense of form, just out of focus, but defined instead by bold colour. On closer inspection tiny creatures outlined in yellow can be made out, figments of the imagination brought to life on canvas.

Federico Herrero, 'Ghost' (2008) 90 x 75cm, mixed media on canvas

Round black dots encircled in white, a familiar motif in Herrero’s work, speckle the surfaces, and appear to play on the notion of seeing and being seen. While contemplating the dots, your line of vision is directed back to within yourself, mediated by ‘eyes’ that transfix your own gaze. Are these dots guiding us? As you try to extract meaning, the painting becomes a mental playground in which the unconscious is left to roam freely. The smallest work in the exhibition is light blue with two ‘eyes’ situated at eye level. Impossible to avoid a glance, you wonder if these ‘eyes’ that appear to float in the blue paint translate the simple but important message that, just as the eyes appear to surface above the paint, we see and experience the world through colour.

It seems safe to say that Herrero’s work reminds us of the fundamental association that we make between colour and happiness, action and pleasure. And there is no doubt that if you open yourself up to Herrero’s work, you will leave his exhibition feeling invigorated and content.

Naomi Crowther

Naomi Crowther. Graduated in autumn 2007 from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London with a MA in Japanese Studies. Her research centred around Edo period visual culture, in particular Mount Fuji and Musashino iconography. From 2003 to 2004 she lived in Paris during her year abroad as an undergraduate, and fondly recalls the wealth of patisseries, florists and art house cinemas. From September 2007 to September 2008 she resided in Tokyo, where she worked at Taka Ishii Gallery. When not there she enjoyed exploring the city on foot, browsing second-hand bookshops, and taking the occasional photograph. » See other writings

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