Ikon presents the first major survey of work by Shimabuku (b. Kobe, 1969), including installation, video, drawings and sculptural pieces dating back to the early 1990s, when he first emerged as an artist in Japan, up to the present day. Shimabuku’s artistic practice is characterised by an intense fascination with the natural world and the countless manifestations of human culture within it; encouraging us to break with established habits of perception and enjoy experiences as if they are happening to us for the first time.
Ikon’s first floor galleries are taken up with works made by Shimabuku in the UK. An early performance, Tour of Europe with One Eyebrow Shaved (1991), sees the artist attract attention by shaving off his left eyebrow whilst on the London Underground; while a later work, Swansea Jack Memorial Dog Swimming Competition (2003), relates the story of a dog named Swansea Jack who saved 27 people from drowning during the 1930s and a swimming competition for dogs devised by Shimabuku as an homage to the life-saving dog. Food forms a regular theme in the exhibition: Shimabuku’s Fish and Chips (2006) sees a submerged potato in the River Mersey meeting live fish, whilst Cucumber Journey (2000) revisits a work made with Ikon in which the artist travelled from London to Birmingham by canal boat, spending two weeks pickling vegetables.
Ikon’s second floor galleries feature works made abroad, particularly in Japan. In his video Then, I decided to give a Tour of Tokyo to the Octopus from Akashi (2000) Shimabuku travels with an octopus in a fishtank, taking a bullet-train to Tokyo. Like tourists, they visit the Tokyo Tower and the famous Tsukiji fish market before getting back on the train to return the octopus back home in the Akashi Sea. The artist refers to this work as his Apollo project, involving an adventure far from the natural habitat of the octopus.
Incongruity has characterised much of Shimabuku’s work. In Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere (1994), the artist stands, on a spring day, by a railway line in Kobe in the guise of Santa Claus. Enchanted by the thought that Christmas occurs during the summer months in the southern hemisphere, hehoped to inspire passengers who might catch a fleeting glimpse of him from the train window, with dreams of Christmas in the summertime. In his work Shimabuku is not so interested in discovering the reasons why, instead preoccupied, through a joyful approach, with unions of myth or mystery and the everyday. This is epitomised by Something that Floats / Something that Sinks (2008), a work through which the artist draws our attention to the fact that some pieces of fruit and vegetables float in water or appear to swim, while others sink. It is as wonderful as it is seemingly miraculous.
The exhibition pervades the entire Ikon building, including the Tower Room and Café Opus at Ikon and also includes a new project Shimabuku in the UK organised in collaboration with the Big Issue. Shimabuku has produced a magazine about selected works in Ikon’s exhibition, only available from Big Issue sellers near Ikon Gallery for the duration of his exhibition.
Shimabuku’s exhibition Something that Floats / Something that Sinks is supported by The Henry Moore Foundation, The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and the Japan Foundation. Golfing equipment supplied by V.G.S. (Virtual Golf Systems: Solutions:Simulators). Golf coaching supplied by Russell Adams Golf Academy