In “Towering Something,” Kaneuji gathers icons of modern culture and everyday objects—hula hoops, shopping carts, plastic dinosaurs, Doraemon—and assembles them into sculptural and cut-paper collages, resulting in Frankenstein sculptures that explore a separation of purpose and form. “White discharge,” or plastic resin, is poured over the mass of objects and then drips down to cover some pieces entirely, harden into stalactites, and pool on the ground. Intended to fill a mold, the resin instead acts as a shell, indicating a monstrous confrontation and embrace of the ambiguous and meaningless.
Teppei Kaneuji studied sculpture at the Kyoto City University of the Arts, completing his MA in 2003. His sculptures are fashioned from found objects whose original functions—symbolic and otherwise—are anything but obscure. Employing consumer items including coat hangers, plastic toys, marker pens, and even a set of kitchen knives, Kaneuji’s works explore the possibility of interacting with materials in ways other than those preordained by the social and economic values usually assigned to them. Kaneuji’s work seeks out symbol-object relationships and then intentionally smothers their projected meanings by connecting lines, turning shapes inside out, and flip-flopping roles of “inner” and “outer.”
The inspiration for his signature “White Discharge” series came when Kaneuji saw a Mercedes Benz and an adjacent pile of dog excrement blanketed in snow. Moved by the levelling effect of the thick, white substance, the artist began trying to recreate his own versions, collecting unrelated objects and covering them with white starch powder. Kaneuji was still a student at the time, and he notes of his university experience in general that he learned in the course of his studies that he did not have to develop a concept before starting a work. Rather, he could operate on a more affective basis, worrying about explanation after the event. Both playful and contemplative, Kaneuji’s work collapses the division between thinking and making that dominates industrial society. In White Discharge (Built-up Objects #28) (2012), scissors, diabolo toys, and action figures combine to make a structure that loosely resembles a biplane. The white resin that covers the structure meanwhile serves at once to homogenize the component parts and make the airplane reading possible. It creates a powerful sense of stillness—the resin having hardened as it was dripping downwards.
Using materials that might seem more at home in a children’s playroom than a museum, Kaneuji’s works are tactile and inventive. The “Games, Dance & the Constructions” series comprises two-dimensional sculptures mixing manga cutouts with photographs. The “Ghost Building” series meanwhile uses mirrors as the background for the skeletal frames of children’s sticker sheets when all the stickers have been removed. Kaneuji describes the effect he hopes to engender with his art as “a sense of encountering things that seem familiar but that we do not really understand.”
This exhibition at UCCA offers audiences a chance to engage with this captivating and ingenious artist, with the artworks accompanied by a 15-minute video depicting the process by which the “White Discharge” series was made.