New York-based emerging artist Miya Ando debuts brand-new work in Light Metal, her first solo exhibition in Hong Kong. A descendant of Bizen sword makers, Ando was raised among Buddhist priests in a temple in Okayama, Japan, later settling in California and now working in Brooklyn. Combining traditional techniques of her ancestry with modern industrial technology, she skillfully transforms sheets of burnished steel and anodized aluminum into ephemeral, abstract wall-mounted installations suffused with color.
At the core of Ando’s practice is the transformation of surfaces. She produces light-reflecting gradients on her metal paintings by applying heat, sandpaper, grinders, acid and patinas, irrevocably altering the material’s chemical properties. It’s by an almost meditative daily repetition of these techniques that Ando is able to subtract, reduce and distill her concept until it reaches its simplest form. “I like the idea of using things that are seemingly permanent,” she says. “By applying different techniques, I transform the materials to evoke sky, or water or air—it’s like a transition from the industrial to the natural world.”
Building on this premise of transformation, Ando recently began working with anodized aluminum as well as steel, producing a series of large-scale paintings infused with luminous color—a bespoke palette of muted reds, blues, greens, pinks, purples and gold she conjured from a limited selection of industrial dyes. Ando applies and often hand paints the pigments onto plates of anodized aluminum, which is much lighter than steel, as if they were watercolors. Anodizing—an industrial process in which sapphire crystals are electroplated to the metal—allows the dyes to bond to the material, producing more vivid color. The resulting patterns subtly evoke ethereal, minimalist landscapes and abstracted metallic horizons.
For Ando, the paradoxical pairing of spiritual subject matter with metal is intentional. Not only is it a way for the artist to connect with her heritage but it is also an exploration into the dichotomy and impermanence of the natural world and the man-made world. She says: “My work is an exploration into the duality of metal and its ability to convey strength and permanence, yet in the same instance absorb shifting color and capture the fleetingness of light. It reminds us of the transitory nature of all things in life.”
Miya Ando received a bachelor’s degree in East Asian studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and attended Yale University to study Buddhist iconography and imagery. She apprenticed with a master metalsmith in Japan, followed by a residency at Northern California’s Public Art Academy in 2009. She is the recipient of many awards, including the Bronx Museum AIM Residency in 2013 and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 2012. Her work has been exhibited extensively all over the world, including in a recent show curated by Nat Trotman of the Guggenheim Museum. Miya Ando has produced numerous public commissions, notably a thirty-foot-tall commemorative sculpture in London built from World Trade Center steel to mark the ten-year anniversary of 9/11.