New York-based emerging artist Miya Ando debuts recent work in Mujo (Impermanence), her first solo exhibition at Sundaram Tagore Gallery. A descendant of Bizen sword makers, Ando was raised among sword smiths and Buddhist priests in a temple in Okayama, Japan. Combining traditional techniques of her ancestry with modern industrial technology, Ando skillfully transforms sheets of burnished steel and anodized aluminum into ephemeral abstractions suffused with subtle gradations of color.
For Ando, the paradoxical pairing of spiritual subject matter with metal is intentional. 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.”
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.
Building on this premise of transformation, Ando recently produced a series of large-scale metal 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 the pigment-like watercolor to plates of anodized aluminum (an industrial process that electroplates metal with sapphire crystals, allowing the dye to bond to the metal). The resulting patterns subtly evoke ethereal, minimalist landscapes and abstracted metallic horizons. “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.”
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 the master metal smith Hattori Studio in Japan, followed by a residency at Northern California’s Public Art Academy in 2009. She is the recipient of many awards, including 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, most notably a thirty-foot-tall commemorative sculpture in London built from World Trade Center steel to mark the ten-year anniversary of 9/11. She lives and works in New York.
In my work, I create quiet, abstract, meditative environments as a study of spiritual expression. Ultimately I am interested in the study of subtraction to the point of purity, simplicity and refinement. I am Japanese and Russian-American, a descendant of Bizen sword maker Ando Yoshiro Masakatsu and was raised between two worlds: among sword smiths-turned Buddhist priests in a Buddhist temple in Okayama, Japan and amongst the redwoods in coastal Santa Cruz, California. I am influenced by meditation, nature, geometry and the ethos and aesthetics of Zen Reductivism. I work primarily in metals and light, themes in my work are impermanence, transformation and transcendence.
The foundation of my studio practice is based on the transformation of surfaces, focusing to create works with light and metals. I have a deep appreciation for the dynamic properties of metal and its ability to reflect light. Metal simultaneously conveys strength and permanence and yet in the same instant can appear delicate, fragile, luminous, soft, and ethereal. The medium becomes both a contradiction and juxtaposition for expressing notions of evanescence, including ideas such as the transitory and ephemeral nature of all things, quietude and the underlying impermanence of everything.
Recently my work has combined 2D and 3D pieces into installations of transformative minimal spaces and environments. These contemplative, luminous voids are at once empty and serene, while also alive, filled with potential and possibility. In these new installations, I invite the viewer into a meditative space, and it is my hope that these spaces inspire introspection, reflection and solace. I have recently completed the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 public commission, created from 30 foot sections of World Trade Center Steel, which was unveiled September 5th in London by Mayor Boris Johnson. For this work, I left the steel unchanged in form but polished part of the material into a highly refined, mirror finish which reflected light. My intention is to put forth quiet and transcendent environments which come from a place of sincerity and compassion.
Miya Ando, New York 2011