Toshihiko Mitsuya’s Glittering Mirage: Its Study and Play
A body of 300 miniature soldiers assert occupation, emerging from a corner of the exhibition space (The indignant, 2009); intricately detailed, and delicately formed botanicals wondrously spring from the ground elsewhere; and a full-scale equestrian statue (Anonymous relatives - gate keeper -, 2013) - all made with aluminum foil – emanate upon first approach, as a silvery glittering illusion.
The enchanting surface of Toshihiko Mitsuya’s works - unlike the bronze statue, heavy in mass with an aged, patinated surface - is seemingly deprived of a sense of dignity that might otherwise be achieved through using traditional or glorified sculptural materials. As the reflection of aluminum foil glitters on the bodies of work the malleable material of aluminum, and emphasis is placed on the conditions of the space and their precise compositions within the gallery, undermining the narratives carried by the depicted motifs. In this effect, aluminum foil suggests less as a signage to everyday object, nor does it represent transient nature of life versus the permanence using a metallic. Everything shines in silver like a futuristic scene in a sci-fi film.
Mitsuya’s seminal work, Anonymous relatives – guide - (2012), is a life-size equestrian statue of 4.2 meters in height and 2.5 meters in width. It is made with special aluminum foil of 1 meter width and 0.2 mm thick, in which aluminum foil's plasticity and reflective surface gives its full potentials in armor parts, and delicate details of feathers and hair are achieved by the soft properties of the material. Referring to Knight, Death and Devil (1513), a masterpiece by the Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), the work is a three dimensional realization from the original copper etching. Despite that, it is hard to say that it translates the gore and suggest from the battlefield in the original etching. Instead, its evocative of a ghostly figure from computer games, or illusion in the virtual space. This work was publicly displayed in the streets of Berlin against the backdrop of historical monuments in requiem for modernity. This giant aluminum cast must have glittered as if vanishing into the reflection of sunlight, gaining a more critical position when the entity is lost in the light, when the sculpture moves back and forth between the real and the virtual.
Mitsuya’s practice is an investigation into material potentials of aluminium foil. In collaboration with architect studio June14 Meyer-Grohbrügge & Chermayeff, the artist tested its durability in various forms of construction over a course of 6 months sing 0.2 mm aluminum foil. He folded aluminum foil, weaved its ends, and made arches and large tubes, as a research practice on the material’s durability in various architectural forms. In more recent installation, Aluminum Garden (2015, 2016), the artist studied the botanical structure of 51 plant species such palms, reeds, and ferns, all of which were tested the boundaries of the materials and hand-crafted with careful attention to detail to form a garden. The work even seems to convey wind, light, touch feeling on it using a very light and fragile material while maintaining metal properties. Flexible architecture using aluminum foil shapes the natural environment, in which the nature is imitated by an industrial material.
The viewer encounters Mitsuya’s work, like a mirage that project a real landscape but without the substance. An illusion that appears abruptly in from of the viewer to create the dialogue with this ghostly vision that swallows every viewer's astonishment and appreciation.