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Aoi Sasai “Water Flowing Upward” in the ANDO GALLERY

Aoi Sasai has been painting original works with trees as a motif, since she was a student, however the central motif in the 2019 [ Lilac in Harbin] exhibition at the Ando Gallery were Lilac flowers. In her solo exhibition “Water Flowing Upward,” we can sense an even greater change in her works.

A retrospective exhibition is also a good way to see the changes in an art style. But being able to resonate with the conflicts and transformations of the artist through her works and relate those with the changes in people’s minds and the times that you are feeling right now, is an experience that only a solo exhibition of a contemporary artist like Aoi Sasai can offer.


The first thing you will notice as you enter the exhibition space is that there are more works that contain abstract elements. It makes you wonder if, can we view the trees and lilacs that were once depicted as plants as they are? because this time, most of the paintings are clearly abstract.
However, as I stood in the center of the exhibition space, surrounded by the old shimmering, warm and deep pastel tones, I began to think that the core of what Sasai was trying to depict had not changed.


In the work “Water Flowing Upward”, which is also the title of the solo exhibition, we can see how a golden mountain stream stretches from the lower right of the screen to the upper left, looking like ears of rice fluttering in the wind. You will find it hard to walk away from this work because you will feel the strong life force and healing at the same time.

In a past interview, Aoi Sasai’s said that her motivation for painting was to “draw what lies between herself and the outside world, in other words, the boundary”. All the trees depicted were all modeled after being planted in gardens and parks to represent certain boundaries. She says that these trees were ambiguous boundaries (fuzzy lines) that she could slip through or jump over if she wanted to.

In recent years, those lines had become strongly marked, making her felt unpleasant. The model for her last solo exhibition, the Lilac was the key to resolve such discomfort. Her first encounter with the Lilac occurred in a private trip when she traveled to Harbin in search of her grandfather’s vestiges.

In the same way, the motifs of the works in this exhibition are based on the scenery Sasai saw during her travels, and her own struggles are in the background. In addition, the fact that COVID-19 has drastically reduced her contact with the outside world and with other people, seems to have had some effect on her, obtained a stronger ability to turn inward to herself, and be more aware of trivial things in daily life.

Seven of the nine works in this exhibition were painted in oil on canvas. Sasai says that she does not apply many layers of paint and aims to create a deep drawing while applying thin layers. It will be difficult to enjoy of such a faint contrast and comfortable “shimmering” world, without seeing these works in person.

And you have no choice but to stand in front of the work in order to feel Sasai’s attempt to go somewhere different, to seek a place more in line with her own thoughts and feelings.

As mentioned above, there are places and sceneries that were used as models for the works in this solo exhibition, but they will probably be unexpected places for everyone. After you appreciate the pieces, please ask the gallery staff where it is. You may find even more unexpected discoveries in these works.

Title SASAI Aoi  “Water Flowing Upward”
Period March 2 Tue. – April 24 Sat., 2021
Address 3-3-6 Hirano Koto-ku Tokyo 135-0023 Japan
Official Website http://www.andogallery.co.jp/
Opening Hours 11:00 ~ 19:00
Closed Sundays, Mondays and Japanese National Holidays
Admission Free
Note Please note the following compulsory procedures as preventative measures of COVID-19 when entering the gallery.
* Body temperature measurement (no entry when visitors’ body temperature is or above 37.5 °C)
* Fill in contact information (for releasing infection information in case of any)