'After being dismantled, "Electric Clothes" was embedded in canvas and transfigured, becoming a single artwork with electric decoration. Through its wiring motifs, the dress takes on another life within this vivid painting.'
- Shinichiro Osaki
Regardless of the size of her canvases, Atsuko Tanaka never placed them upright when painting. Partly this avoided the problem of dripping pigments, but a more important concern was her desire for physical contact with the canvas, through which, in her continuing creative work, she could also explore her own limits. In 88A-'93 , the artist first layered large and small circles on top of each other on her canvas, and then, on top of those, added intertwining connecting lines of varying thickness--thus employing the basic elements of lines, planes, and colors in a simple manner to create three-dimensional depth. Countless lines wind through and among the circles, while patterns of tiny gaps show through the lines and planes, like the rings of Saturn. A closer look at all the veins in this network reveals order within this closely packed array of lines, an order that creates a spectacular view of meshed shapes, like candy flowers, in fresh, brilliant colors. Like vines in a garden leading to fruit, viewers can follow the traces of the artist's movements and her creative thought. For the dense array of circles and their closely-packed network of lines, the artist drew on images derived from her works of the 1950s, including Stage Clothes , Electric Dress , and Work (Bell).
Tanaka used light bulbs, electrical wiring, and fabrics to create her Stage Clothes and Electric Dress , which drapes over the entire body like a burka. What Tanaka constructed, amid her tangle of industrial materials such as tungsten filaments and electrical wiring, vividly illustrated the boundaries and extensions where the human body and other organic structures interface with the world. Jiro Yoshihara, founder of the Gutai group, said that Tanaka's Electric Dress 'clearly denotes the human form.' A series of flourescent tubes light up, beginning from the feet and moving upwards, suggesting the flow and circulation of blood throughout the body; as they flicker on and then off again they convey the origins and disappearance of that mysterious and fathomless thing, the soul itself. Beginning with a drawing she made while planning her Stage Clothes (fig. 1), Tanaka gradually began producing works on flat media. In 88A-'93 (Lot 59) she seems to have disassembled her electric dress to create a version of its dazzling, flashing lights on canvas. The flowing, flashing lights of these neon circuit paths look almost like a city in microcosm, but in fact are Tanaka's visual metaphor for aspects of our bodily systems--those converging networks are the tissues of our bodies, and the thick and thin lines, the blood vessels that serve them. Short, lively bursts of pink suddenly jump out from among them in bright flashes like pulsing jolts of electricity.
While Tanaka obviously employed only her concise combinations of circles and lines, she steadfastly concentrated on exploring their relationships and effects on the canvas- -from her paintings of the '50s, with their structured arrangements of similarly-sized circles, to compostions based on concentric circles in the '60s, to the dense, busy compositions of the '70s with vivd lines from a short, blunt brush, to the more systematic organization of lines and circles in her works of the 80s and 90s. Like Sol LeWitt, a minimalist who also used industrial materials (Fig. 2 & 3), Tanaka stressed the winding and enclosing effects of lines. Each of her works possesses a unique sense of flowing motion, just as each person's body has the same systems of blood vessels and organs, though differently arranged, and each with its own heartbeat and bloodlfow, unique and different. Tanaka uses vinyl paints for the flowing lines in 88A-'93 , but the visual effect as they intertwine appears like a mass of tangled electrical wires, as circuit pathways added afterwards form new structures over the original patterns. Red, blue, and green are the basic colors that wind and lead our eyes along the arcing networks around the circles, establishing the basic fabric of this work, while Tanaka adds pleasing rhythms through variations in the lines' brightness and width. Atsuko Tanaka skillfully confronts the viewer with these powerful flowing lines, the product of her life's work at transforming and elevating her artistic vocabulary to new heights.
1 Ashiya, Museum of Art & History; Shizuoka, Prefectural Museum of Art, Atsuko Tanaka: Search for an Unknown Aesthetic 1954- 2000 , Japan, 2001 (page 23)
2 Anneke Jaspers (Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo), "The Art of Connecting – Atsuko Tanaka," Art Asia Pacific 79 (2012) accessed 22 July, 2016 http://artasiapacific.com/Magazine/79/ TheArtOfConnectingAtsukoTanaka