Thursday, November 13, 2008

REEL ASIAN '08: Takashi Ishida at the Trinity Square Video Gallery

by Chris MaGee

Experimental filmmaker Takashi Ishida has become an honourary Torontonion over the past year. Having won the Most Promising Young Talent prize from the Goto Commemorative Culture Award in 2007 the 36-year-old artist has been in residence in the city creating his own unique brand of work that combines 2-D painting with site installation in an ever evolving process captured by stop motion photography. Before he returns to Japan at the end of February Cinematheque Ontario will be holding the special "Evening with Takashi Ishida" on December 3rd that will highlight both his early as well as recently produced in Toronto experimental film works. This year's Reel Asian Film Festival in conjunction with Trinity Square Video are giving art and film enthusiasts a sneak peek not only at some of the films that they can expect at the Cinematheque Retrospective, but also the privilege of seeing Ishida's latest work "Trans-" in the making.

Starting on November 4th Ishida was invited to transform the far wall of the Trinity Square Video Gallery's main space into a daily evolving painting, a process that guests of the Thursday night opening reception got to see in an up-to-the-minute stop motion film projected directly onto the work itself. As Ishida explained in a conversation with some of the guests he and his assistant photograph the painting at intervals as short as three seconds to as long as five minutes, stopping and starting as he works. Seeing Ishida's first loose, bold brushstrokes definitely brings to mind one of his primary influences, the emakimono or "picture scrolls" produced in Japan from the 11th to 16th centuries as well as traditional zenga calligraphy, but it's his use of film to capture the ever increasing complexity and gestural beauty of this painting in progress that, for me, brought many other artists to mind. I think that the most apparent contemporary Japanese parallel to Ishida's film work is the Tokyo artist collective Rinpa Eshidan who also capture their evolving, site specific paintings and sculptures with stop motion photography; but Ishida's works are much more stately and meditative than Rinpa's graffiti and pop culture inspired imagery. As the brushwork in "Trans-" builds up I couldn't help thinking of painters like Joan Mitchell and Robert Ryman, but I kept having to keep in mind that "Trans-" is still a work in progress and with Ishida continuing to paint and film until December 19th there's no telling what artistic territory he'll move into.

Well, there are clues at the show. Not only will visitors get to see this unfinished work, but they will also see two completed films, 1999's "Reflections" and 2007's "Film of the Sea". Both use elemental themes, the former in which Ishida traces and paints the sunlight and shadows cast
on a white wall adjacent to an open window and in the latter 2-D and 3-D elements are contrasted to depict the filming of or projection of footage of the ocean.

"Trans-" continues at the Trinity Square Video Gallery, 401 Richmond Street West, Suite 376 until December 19th. Check out their website here as well as Takashi Ishida's website here.

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