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Miya Ando at the Venice Biennale- with essay by Lori Zimmer

The wonderful Miya Ando‘s immersive sculptural piece, “Emptiness The Sky” (Shou Sugi Ban),  has made its way (along with the artist) to the 56th Venice Biennale for the Frontiers Reimagined exhibition at the Museo di Palazzo Grimani. Ando asked me to write a short essay about the piece, which is also included in the catalog in Venice- here it is for those of us who aren’t lucky enough to be in Italy now!


Miya Ando’s work has always been impressed by specific elements from her upbringing, weaving details from her family’s history of crafting Bizen swords in Japan into her signature colored metal canvases. Informed by her upbringing in a Buddhist temple in Okayama, Japan, and then later in the redwood forest of Santa Cruz, California, “Emptiness The Sky” (Shou Sugi Ban) invites the viewer to step inside Ando’s personal narrative to experience her contemplative works from within.


In Ando’s traditional metal canvases, viewers can experience her meditative calm by standing before them, hung on a gallery’s wall. “Emptiness The Sky” (Shou Sugi Ban) invites viewers to feel tranquility on the next level, from the inside out. The piece, a fusion of inspirations of Japanese tea rooms and a childhood tree house inside a (charred?) redwood tree, is a respite from the art world bubble, a private chamber to give oneself over to the transformative calm of fields of metal and pigment. Like being immersed inside the contemplative plane of one of her paintings, viewers can lose themselves, blurring the lines of where their consciousness ends and Ando’s paintings begin.

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This experience is literally encased with another element of Ando’s history, lined with (its namesake) shou sugi ban, or charred wood. The blackened wood protected the Buddhist temple where Ando grew up from fire, and today it protects the tranquil sanctuary found in Ando’s paintings.

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