art pioneer studio art in progress...

The documentary of Liminal-Space Figuration

In architectual works, how does a wall of 400 square meters make people excited? How to use the power of art to turn it into an installation that effectively attracts audience? A permanent art project located on the bank of the Huangpu River has provided us with a meaningful answer.

This unique permanent art project is co-organized by Shanghai Lujiazui (Group) Co., Ltd. ("Lujiazui Group") and Art Pioneer Studio ("APS"), and invited internationally acclaimed artist Shinji Ohmaki to customize the an public artwork Liminal - Space Figuration for lobby of the 280-meter office building of Qiantan Center.

Qiantan Center, photo provided by the owner
Liminal-Space Figuration, Qiantan Center

Located on the east side of the Huangpu River, south of Chuanyang River, west of Jiyang Road and north of Huaxia West Road, the Qiantan Center covers an area of 2.83 square and is the largest urban complex in Pudong Qiantan International Business Circle. It is consisted of TaiKoo Li Business Center (100,000 square meters), a 280-meter grade-A office building, and five-star hotel SHANGRI-LA and adopts a very forward-looking and challenging approach——art arrangement and curatorial mode were involved in the development of high-end complexes and urban functions. "A successful business center in the future will not only possess shopping and display function. By deploying and regularly introducing artworks to the area, the experience of commercial complexes will be greatly improved, and forming information hot spots over time, so as to expand its influence and improve the gathering ability of people," said Robin Wong, founder of the Art Pioneer Studio.

Qiantan Center ©KPF

In the project of the Qiantan Center, it is extremely valuable to achieve a high degree of unity between architecture and art. The overall architectural design of the Qiantan Centre, designed by renowned architecture firm Kohn Pedersenfox (KPF), is inspired by the concepts of flow (water), diversion (wood grain) and transformation (stone layer). A linear "circulation line" runs through the site, combining all three building components (hotel, office and podium) with a striking visual language. Art Pioneer Studio invited the artist Shinji Ohmaki to customize Liminal - Space Figuration for the 400-square-meter wall in the lobby of the 280-meter office building, which is the first large-scaled public artwork of that the artist has realized in China. In this permanent work, the artist shows us how to transform the artificial into the natural, creating a field with ever-changing contours.

Figuration, Qiantan Center
Figuration, Qiantan Center
Figuration, Qiantan Center

Liminal - Space Figuration was jointly produced by Lujiazui Group and Art Pioneer Studio. It took more than 100 engineers 27 months to complete the work in Qiantan Center, Pudong New Area, Shanghai, and was completed in the end of year 2020 after overcoming various difficulties during the epidemic.

In this interview, Shinji Ohmaki shares his creative process, ideas and behind-stage story with us about his work "Liminal - Space Figuration".

Artist Shinji Ohmaki

Ohmaki: This artwork is located within an architecture, which was designed with the idea of water and stone. I tried to emphasize this concept with my own artwork; therefore, the questions of how to build a connection with nature and how to symbolize nature with the work become important themes. I would like to show the process of transforming, with fluid energy, to the audience. Within the environment that seasons keep changing, I want to connect the property of this architecture to the audience.

1:100 model video and 3D simulation animation of the work, developing the project with models and 3D effect models to verify the reflection and flow of light to achieve the artist's concept and visual effect.

Ohmaki: Liminal-Space Figuration derives from Liminal Air. In Liminal Air, I talked about the daily elements such as matter, wind, light, in terms of how they exist in a different dimension than ours. Rather than interrogating matter, Liminal-Space Figuration is discovering different performances of space. Space transforms depending on different seasons. In fact, it breaks through the boundaries and connects people with the environment, and finally becomes a place that elements cooperate with each other. Thus Liminal-Space Figuration, with a completely new form, is beyond Liminal Air from this perspective.

Liminal Air Space-Time, 2015, Mori Art Museum, Japan © Shinji Ohmaki Studio

Ohmaki: People interpret artworks with their own experiences. When we create a work in a space, we are actually endowing a brand-new experience to the audience through this space. Therefore, whether it’s the audience or people related to this work, or even it’s someone who stands aside, they are accepting a new experience with the one they already have. In other words, this artwork is a medium that viewers could realize who they are once again.

Liminal-Space Figuration has an important theme: that is, how to transform an artificial thing into a natural one. This artificial metal piece could only be made by humans. We have to put changes and energy into it, for it to approach a natural thing. Therefore, I regard myself as the energy to confront it, hit it, bend it, and make this artistic process a sculpture. I keep making these pieces, and I eventually made about fifty of it. Thus the process also represents how body, energy, and matter transform.

Detail, Liminal-Space Figuration, Qiantan Center

Ohmaki: People had the energy of change in Echoes-Infinity, and this made the place. There were various preferences and actions when the place was formed. It was more than the difference in language, rather, our personalities would affect our judgments. For instance, culture is an essential element. Say we have a good tradition in our culture, someone may think that it is fine to abandon it as it is so old, whereas others would believe that protecting it is more important. The later ones would walk carefully within those mandalas, and people with thoughts that “we could have new ones as these are too old” would destroy the patterns. So Echoes-Infinity is more than space, but a stage that reflects the natural behaviors of humans. It was a realitic show to observe our identities objectively.

Echoes Infinity Moment and Eternity,2016,Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Aichi, Japan © Tetsuo Ito
Echoes Infinity Moment and Eternity,2016,Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Aichi, Japan © Tetsuo Ito

Ohmaki: Yes. People who use this space or pass by would all be parts of this work. A sculpture is more than simply an artwork, but is every possible phenomenon, the interaction between people and the work, the other items in the place… All of these compose together and become a complete artwork. As time flows, the work could demonstrate this change.

Ohmaki: I think an essential meaning of public art is to be a symbol in our daily life. Public art doesn’t choose its audience, neither is it about politics or religion. It is beyond all of those concepts and a place to connect everyone.

Memorial Rebirth,2015,Adachi market © Matsuo Ujin
Memorial Rebirth -α-,2011 © Sato Akira

Ohmaki: When we develop a modern city, many lands, histories, and memories are eliminated. How to stimulate our memories among this land with nothing? When we lose lands, we not only lose memories, but also consciousness. What existed before are no longer deemed to exist. For example, when the media reported an earthquake, this report would be overwhelmed by new information. The earthquake is fixed to the past. Nevertheless, the place where the earthquake happened doesn’t belong to the past nor future. The meaning of the present moment must exist at that place. To find its future, it is important to know the present meaning of that place. Connect everyone. Connect everyone’s memories. I want to create a place where people can think about their relationship to this space, even to those seemingly irrelevant people. I want to provide an opportunity for people to return to this place. Memorial Rebirth is an installation that pushes people to realize “where is this place,” which at the same time discussing the above questions.

Ohmaki: Public art is deeply connected to where it’s located. Creating in different places lead me to create different works. The concept should be differentiated from the art collection. The artwork should intervene in this place and enhance the properties of this place. Or, it should be a media that connect people with each other. I often think about the subject of the place, or its hidden subject. I want to cooperate with them and produce an integrated idea of this place. Place, space, people and culture are the background of artistic creation.

Ohmaki: This is the first collaboration with APS. The APS team was really great, even though the distance was a big challenge, from the production to the installation, the speed was amazing to me. We used Zoom very frequently for web meetings, and they sent me photos and data, making it very easy for me to give guidance. In the future, I am looking forward to working with APS to complete greater challenges and create completely different art works together.

Ohmaki: In 2022, I will hold a solo exhibition in Sichuan. Details of the information will be disclosed, please stay tuned.

Further Reading
About the Artist

Artist Shinji Ohmaki

Shinji Ohmaki is one of the leading figures in Japanese contemporary art. Born in Gifu, Japan in 1971, he currently lives and works in Tokyo and teaches at the Tokyo University of the Arts. Shinji Ohmaki's works are poetic and pocess publicity, perfectly displaying the dialogue between space and works. His works reveal a deep understanding of the existence and disappearance of time, as well as concerns for society in a unique and delicate aesthetic form. His work has been presented in many important international art exhibitions and cross-border collaborations, and has been included in major public collections.