We are pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings and drawings by Miya Ando. The artist expands her ongoing investigations into concepts of time and reflects on the recent closures.
When the lockdown went into effect, Ando packed up materials from her Long Island City studio and settled in at home, where she immersed herself in research for a book she’s writing. During this time, she found comfort in the nightly presence of the moon. Its orbit, one of nature's cyclical events that never changes, was a luminous constant in a seemingly chaotic world. It inspired her to create a calendar of moon drawings based on her observations. She produced one work every day of the closure as a way to mark the passage of time and chronicle the experience.
When she was able to return to her studio, Ando created new work inspired by the moon in different phases and atmospheric conditions, articulated, she says, “in the vocabulary of minute changes in nature as an examination into an alternate recording of time.” Because of the lockdown, she wasn’t able to receive deliveries of her usual materials, so she made do with what she had on hand—powdered pure silver, Japanese washi paper and natural indigo.
Although Ando is deeply familiar with indigo, this is her first body of work highlighting the medium. Indigo has been used as a natural dye as far back as the 6th century in Japan, where the artist spent her early childhood. She describes it as a visceral color that recalls memories of spending time with her grandparents in the countryside and in the Buddhist temple where her grandfather was head priest. Ando says she felt a longing to reconnect with those feelings and with the simplicity of her life then. Indigo is also a color that conveys the deepest parts of the ocean and space, two vast domains of the natural world that Ando says inspire contemplation and which are often the subject of her work.
The centerpiece of the exhibition, titled 72 Seasons' Moons, comprises a grid of 72 small indigo paintings on wood that depict the moon in different phases. The number of panels refers to an ancient Chinese calendar system, later adapted by Japan, in which there are 24 primary seasons segmented into 72 micro-seasons per year. The paintings are arranged in chronological order with each panel capturing the moon at a specific moment during 2020. Ando borrows from the traditional Japanese indigo dyeing technique aizome, which preserves the natural color of the wood in select areas, allowing her to use negative space to create the moon and stars. As the indigo saturates the natural grain, it highlights the history and character of the wood.
Paying homage to the Japanese tradition of paper making, Ando created corresponding works using indigo on Japanese Kozo paper, which is derived from the Mulberry plant. In these pieces, the moon occupies only a small portion of the composition. Ando applies the indigo in varying degrees of intensity across the paper, creating a sense of depth and space. She adds pure silver dust to evoke the shimmering Milky Way, referred to in Japanese as Ginga, the silver river in heaven. “During the lockdown I sought solace in creating works that felt like windows I could disappear into,” she says. “It comforts me to look at paintings that feel endless and vast, where, in my mind, I can float away to celestial spaces of quietude.”
As the moon drawings evolved, becoming more abstract and distilled, Ando shifted to a different medium. Employing both aluminum and steel, she created a series of metal paintings in varied formats, including tondos, squares and rectangles, oriented horizontally and vertically. The paintings are rendered in a full spectrum of rich color. Some are saturated in deep shades of blue and aubergine, suggestive of the void beyond our galaxy; in other works, the moon bathes in the bright glow of first light.
Ando plays with perspective, offering hints of a horizon line or the faintest trace of the moon's form hidden behind a curtain of mist. These works, she says, investigate the concept of liminal spaces and are part of her new series Oborozuki, a Japanese word for a moon obscured by clouds.
Ando also produced new kumo (cloud) paintings for this exhibition. To capture shifting clouds, she delicately applies translucent layers of color to the reflective metal canvas, leaving areas of negative space to evoke a sense of light emanating from the sky. The effect creates a harmonious balance between the permanence of metal and the ephemerality of the natural world. One of the early works from this series was included in Atmosphere in Japanese Painting at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2018 and acquired for the museum’s permanent collection.