1.  Matteuccia Struthioplerus
Fiddlehead Fern
  13.5" x 29"   5 panels
2. Cornus
Dogwood Leaf
  14" x 29"   5 panels
3. Dicentra Formosa
Bleeding Heart
  22" x 62"   10 panels
4. Dicentra Formosa
Bleeding Heart (Yellow)
  5.5" x 20"   4 panels
5. Hencheria Sanguinea
Coral Bell
  14" x 23"   4 panels
6. Dicentra Formosa
Bleeding Heart (Red)
  14" x 23"   4 panels
7. Semiarundinaria Fastuosa
  39.5" x 53"   4 panels

[Click image thumbnail to view painting]
From the Garden: Stage IV is a body of new works on paper by artist Aiko Suzuki. The seven pieces that comprise the series present a fragmented view of the natural world: nature turned sumptuously topsy-turvy. The surface of each work is richly textured and intricately layered with the fractured shapes and shades of a late summer forest.

These works possess a tantalizing tactility; they capture the glint of a forest's gems as sunlight pierces through the leaves. They offer a kaleidoscopic glimpse of a strewn forest floor, or a skyward glance at canopied trees and feathered branches. They embody tensions – aesthetic, philosophical, spiritual – within a natural world conveyed through expressionistic painterly abandon, collage, and the deliberate restraint of Japanese brush painting.

Each work is a study of a particular plant that grows in the artist's garden: fiddlehead ferns, dogwood leaves, bleeding hearts, coral bells, bamboo. Suzuki began the process of creating these works by having her daughter, Chiyoko Szlavnics, photograph her garden in late summer 2005. The photographs inspired a densely textured surface worked through six to seven layers of metallic acrylic paint. The surface was in turn overlaid with washi papercuts rendered from pencil sketches of selected photographs. This process was laborious yet responsive to the natural elements that first inspired the works.

Suzuki then truncated each image, dividing it into four, five or even ten panels. She proceeded to displace each panel to subvert the ìnaturalî order of the original depiction. The result is kaleidoscopic and seductive, but the works also make viewers self-aware in the act of looking: the sequential flow from panel to panel is interrupted by the space between them and by the slightly mismatched images on them. There is apparent regularity in the placement of the panels, but not in the images themselves. The effect is similar to that of a cinematic jumpcut – all the more disorienting because of the already fragmented imagery.

At the heart of the series is Bamboo, a large and ominous work in which collaged stems of bamboo, blackened, skeletal, reach past the edges of the paper. There is a corrosive quality to the surface and the imagery, and an ambivalence in the work that hovers in an uncanny zone between beauty and menace, calm and calamity, shadow and materiality.

Other works, too, evoke corrosion and effloresence, the earthy and watery, depth and surface. From the Garden: Stage IV is suggestive of natural elements and their beauty seductively fractured and disordered, and restored to an uneasy wholeness.

Kerri Sakamoto
Author/Arts Writer
November 2005



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