Open Frequency 2010: Tomoaki Suzuki selected by Sanna Moore

Open Frequency 2010: Tomoaki Suzuki selected by Sanna Moore Tomoaki Suzuki, Yukina, 2008, 60 x 18 x 15 cm. Lime wood, acrylic paint. Credit: Corvi-Mora

Curator Sanna Moore profiles the work of figurative sculptor Tomoaki Suzuki

Tomoaki Suzuki’s figurative sculptures are extraordinarily life-like. Hand-crafted in lime wood, they stand one third human scale, their resemblance to the models he works from uncanny. Suzuki challenges conventional methods of displaying figurative sculpture by placing his statuettes directly on the floor, not on a plinth. The scale of his work recalls childhood toys, requiring the viewer physically to get down onto the gallery floor in order to examine each figure closely.

In the early 1990s Suzuki studied sculpture at Tokyo Zokei University where approaches to teaching were very traditional. Inspired by his teacher, Katsura Funakoshi, an artist renowned for his contemporary take on figurative sculpture, Suzuki then began to develop his own style. He came to the UK in 1998 to study a Postgraduate Diploma in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College and later a Postgraduate Diploma in Sculpture at City & Guilds Art School, London. There he experimented with clay and resin but always retained the figure in his work. After graduating, his practice became more resolved and he has focused solely on methods of traditional Japanese wood carving to create figures which have a distinctly urban street style.

Suzuki is inspired by consumerism, fashion and youth culture. The eclectic mix of cultures he experiences each day on the high street when he steps outside of his studio in Hackney are strongly reflected in his work. His subjects are real people with iconic street styles; they are neither contrived nor composites of multiple characters. He respects the individuality of each model he chooses to work with and invites the model to select their outfit from clothes that they would normally wear.

He is intrigued by street fashion and strives to capture the style of the time in his sculptures - each work is synonymous with the fashion of that moment. He is fascinated by trends in western consumerism, especially footwear, such as how in the 1990s trainers became a signature of street fashion. His sculptures reference fashion trends and are often a comment on patterns of consumerism, whether reflecting chain store/disposable fashion, customized trainers or vintage/recycled clothing.

He works from life models: each model visits his studio around fifteen times for a two-hour sitting and is photographed from 360 degrees. Suzuki makes photographic composites of front, back and both sides, allowing him to continue working when the model is absent. Suzuki’s craftsmanship and attention to detail is astonishing, his process slow and laborious, with each piece taking two months to complete. Once the carving process is finished he begins to paint the sculpture. Each figure is intricately painted in acrylic to bring them slowly to life.

Suzuki is actively continuing his native country’s tradition of figurative sculpture imbued with a contemporary twist which celebrates multi-cultural street styles. His work is a comment on the cultural diversity of our society and reminds us that, as human beings, we never tire of recognising ourselves in art.

Sanna Moore, 2009

Artist's biography

Tomoaki Suzuki (born 1972, Japan) has established an international profile over the past decade, having presented solo exhibitions at SCAI The Bathhouse, Shiraishi Contemporary Art Inc., Tokyo (2010), Corvi-Mora, London (2008,  2004 and 2002), Leo Koenig Inc., New York (2003) and Michael Janssen Gallery, Köln (2001).

Selected group exhibitions include Size DOES Matter, The FLAG Art Foundation, New York (2010), Le sort probable de l’homme qui avait avalé le fantome, Centre des Monuments Nationaux in partnership with the Festival du Centre Pompidou, Paris (2009), 20, Dazed and Confused Gallery, London; Legende, Centre d’ Art Contemporain, Charamande, France; Attention to Detail, FLAG Art Foundation, New York (curated by Chuck Close), all 2008; Personne ne Veut Mourir, Arquebuse, Geneva; The Youth of Today, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Frankfurt (cat) (2006), First We Take Museums, Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki (cat); Wunderkammer: The Artificial Kingdom, The Collection, Usher Gallery & City and County Museum, Lincoln (2005), Now is Good. (Ne travaillez jamais), Northern Gallery for Contemporary Arts, Sunderland (2004), The Square Show, Bloomberg Space, London; Bad Touch, Keith Talent Gallery, London (2003), The Galleries Show: Contemporary Art in London, The Royal Academy of Arts, London (2002), Jam: Tokyo-London, Barbican Gallery, London; Tokyo Opera Art Gallery, Tokyo (2001), New Contemporaries 2000, Milton Keynes Gallery touring to Cornerhouse, Manchester and Inverleith House, Edinburgh (2000).

In 2008 Suzuki was awarded an Arts Foundation Fellowship and a Crafts Council Development Award in 2003. In December he will present a solo exhibition at Towner, Eastbourne.

He lives in London and is represented by Corvi-Mora.

About Sanna Moore

Sanna Moore is Exhibitions Curator at Towner (Eastbourne), a new visual arts centre designed by Rick Mather Architects opening in April 2009.

From 2001 - 2007 she was Curator & Gallery Administrator at the University of Hertfordshire Galleries, which comprises of two spaces - the Art & Design Gallery (Hatfield) and the Margaret Harvey Gallery (St Albans).

Moore has completed a BA (Hons) in History of Art and Film Studies at Middlesex University and a MA in Gallery Studies from the University of Essex. Between 1997 - 2001 she worked in a number of London galleries, including South London Gallery, the Institute of Contemporary Arts and Whitechapel Art Gallery- where she started as a volunteer and graduated to paid work. She also worked for a short time in commercial galleries but was never serious about a career in the commercial art world.

Open Frequency keeps you in touch with new developments in contemporary art practice from across the UK. The artists are selected and profiled by leading curators, artists and writers, presenting the work of artists to watch out for over the coming year. Open Frequency represents a forward-looking glance today of the artists who will be setting the agenda tomorrow.