Tomoko Sugimoto's recent body of work seems to float on the surface of the picture plane. Using cotton thread on canvas to outline images that include, among others, playing children and seasonal motifs of flora, Sugimoto's work has a levity both in theme and in style. Acrylic paint is also utilized in certain instances to provide translucent washes of color, providing a subtle ripple-like texture to the work.
While her subject matter appears to be light and playful, Sugimoto's work belies an intense and intricate practice. Knowing that Sugimoto first worked out the formal structure of the work, and then spent hours poring over the surface of the canvas, painstakingly sewing each outline, makes the red colored thread she uses appear deliberate. Almost vein-like, these skeins course throughout her oeuvre, a vivid reminder of the power underlying its grace and seeming simplicity. Sugimoto mentioned that she initially chose to use red thread in reference to the Asian concept of the "red string of fate." In Sugimoto's work, this red thread both physicalizes the life blood coursing through the images, as well as the traces of Sugimoto's hand lovingly creating her subject matter.
Sugimoto's artistic practice first involves the preparation of underdrawings which are then traced onto the canvas using pencil. Then, depending upon the work, she places washes of acrylic onto the canvas. The red outlines are then sewn on at the very end. Here are a number of images showing Sugimoto's practice for the Moon Snow Flower series. In this new series, we see Sugimoto investigating abstracted images of photographed nature, superimposed upon a grid of small x's. Especially in a work such as Snow, the red outlines appear to exist simultaneously outside the flat picture plane delineated by the grid marks, as well as within, distorting the viewer's sense of perspective.
Many of Sugimoto's works are in tondo format, providing alternately telescopic and microscopic cut-out views into her world. Some of the smaller circular works are framed by hoops and then exhibited on the wall. The display method references the art of embroidery or needlepointing; this format, together with the subject matter and the gaze with which she potrays them, may appear to categorize Sugimoto's work in a traditionally gendered feminine sphere. Within Sugimoto's work, however, lies a strength--almost monomaniacal--that comes from her intensive commitment to her practice. The intensity and vibrant warmth that emanates from her work is best experienced in person. Sugimoto's show is up at No Romance // Galleries until November 13, 2013.
All images courtesy of the artist.