In Conversation with Miya Ando: Minimalist with a Penchant for 'Meditative Metals'
New York artist Miya Ando returns for her third exhibit with Chelsea gallery Sundaram Tagore for a new exhibit titled Kisetsu. In Kisetsu (meaning seasons) Ando showcases gradient metal canvases sourced from industrial materials along with other significant works. A true minimalist at heart, Ando's work carries deep Buddhist influences due to her Japanese ancestry and emits deep tranquil and serene undertones. In conversation with Miya Ando, she reveals how her family lineage, working with raw materials, and transitory moments help fuel and shape her work.
Gallery Gurls: 'Kisetsu' (Seasons) is your third solo exhibit at Sundaram Tagore, where you explore the power of duality and transformation from the materials you use, you have also referred to these materials at 'meditative metals', can you expand on the power behind these materials in your practice?
Miya Ando: 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 and redirect light. Metal simultaneously conveys strength and permanence and yet in the same moment 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.
Your Japanese heritage and having spent your formative years in Okayama raised by Buddhist priests are core influences that are present in your work, are you exploring elements of your family's ancient folklore/mythology in a present-day contemporary context?
I'm influenced by both parts of my upbringing; living in a Buddhist temple in Okayama and also living in the Santa Cruz mountains. I travelled back and forth as a child between these two places and I draw inspiration from and an deeply influenced by both places.
"I look carefully at history, tradition, memory and the preservation of ancient ideas, but my interest is in putting these values forth in contemporary forms and materials."
You've stated in previous interviews that 'all things in life are transitory and ephemeral', transcendence and impermanence are recurring central themes in your work, do they stem from Zen Buddhist ideas? What resonance do they hold with you?
A core concept in my work has always been the recognition that all things in life are transitory; impermanence is a force unto us all and unto all things, this connects all people and things. I am interested in finding bridges which connect people and things. I am also interested in putting forth artwork which draws attention to the present; works which highlight an awareness of the present moment. The vocabulary of light and of shifting light is one of the ways in which I try to communicate these ideas. One can say that the idea of meditating upon impermanence and the present moment are Buddhist ideas, but these ideas are not exclusive to Buddhism.
"I am interested in finding bridges which connect people and things."
You are an American who was raised between a Buddhist temple in Japan and the redwood forests of Santa Cruz, California. With your Eurasian background, do you infuse personal elements into your work? How do you balance your Eastern/Western identities?
My interest is ultimately in interconnectivity. I search for bridges; things which connect all people and things, I think this is my way of reconciling my two worlds. I’ve always looked for balance and harmony and the result is a personal meditation upon and utilization of seemingly disparate things; industrial and natural, hard and soft, permanent and impermanent.
I'm a native New Yorker and I see so many elements of the city in your work - hard-edged metals later refined, somber and muted tones reminiscent of sunsets in summer, and an understated and calm elegance - does New York City influence or inspire you in any way?
I love New York, I love having my studios in New York and living in the city. I’m definitely influenced by place, by my surroundings, particularly by the conditions of light wherever I am. Mostly my inspiration comes from within, but I can definitely attribute certain colors and feelings to the city.