Biwako Biennale

Ryan Villamael
Omihachiman, Shiga prefecture, Japan

About

    Ryan Villamael is among the selected artists to participate in Biwako Biennale 2018.

    Since its beginning in 2001, the exhibition utlizes venues throughout the old town of Omihachiman. There are 13 exhibition venues, and Villamael’s work is on view at the Kenekichi Bettei townhouse.

    An installation composed of finely cut latticework from replicas of geographical maps, the first iteration of 'Locus Amoenus' was at the 2016 Singapore Biennale. It has then expanded out of the “glass hall” at Singapore Art Museum and thrives in new territories, recently at the MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum exhibition, “Diaspora: Exit, Exile, Exodus of Southeast Asia” then at the Ateneo Art Gallery, and now cascading from the wooden ceiling of the Kenekichi Bettei townhouse.

    With this year’s theme, ‘KIZASHI~BEYOND’, the artists will explore universal aspirations and pour all their energy into touching hearts and inspiring souls.

    Marked by the start of the 21st century, BIWAKO Biennale began in 2001. The exhibition utilizes venues throughout the old town of Omihachiman. Omihachiman was built as a castle town by Hidetsugu Toyotomi and is known as the birthplace of the Omi merchants. Today, several areas of the old town are designated for preservation by the city, including : Shinmachi street, lined with houses built in Edo period; Nagahara street, the townscape along the Hachiman canal: as well as the grounds of Himure Hachiman shrine. These sites have been registered by the government as “Omihachiman Hachiman traditional buildings preservation district”. Dotted throughout the old town many empty, old houses, after falling into disrepair, eventually become parking lots or new, modern houses. In an effort to save these irreplaceable historic buildings, BIWAKO Biennale attempts put them to use. BIWAKO Biennale begins by cleaning these long neglected buildings with the help of volunteers comprised of both local residents and people from across Japan. Then, artists from home and abroad work with each of the spaces to turn them into works of art.

    The scorching heat in August threatened to melt everything under the sun, and the never-ending September rain and typhoons caused terrible damage in many parts of Japan. We are seeing yet another year of natural disasters ravaging the country, leaving massive devastation in their wake. Still, October was welcomed by a sweet osmanthus fragrance wafting through the town, a promise of a peaceful autumn.

    Witnessing how nature goes about its business, we have organized BIWAKO BIENNALE for years, holding it for the eighth time this year. In a small town of Omihachiman it may still be as inconspicuous as unnoticed roadside flowers. Actually, all works are harmonized to the spaces and spin the history of the houses to a new future.

    The venues are mostly vacant houses. It is heart-wrenching to see these abandoned buildings looking as if they had lost their soul without inhabitants. How many people have come and gone between these walls in the last two centuries? Memories and traces of their previous occupants are left to linger in the air. By cleaning the houses and exhibiting art there, we bring them back to life. Each time, I am deeply moved by this process.

    I first came to Omihachiman and discovered the town as a treasure of Japan with so many old buildings well preserved, displaying the essence of Japanese aesthetic. When you live abroad for as long as I did, you develop the ability to objectively see both good and bad sides of your home country. I realized, for instance, that Japan is among only a few countries that have four distinct seasons with changing seasonal landscapes. We have Spring with cherry blossoms painting the whole country in pink, Summer enveloped in thick green foliage moistening the air, Fall with red and yellow leaves covering the feet of mountains, and Winter that turns landscapes into a silver world.

    Sadly, however, the attitudes and mentalities the Japanese have developed while living surrounded by such abundant nature are now being lost in our modern world.

    Hopefully, the artworks exhibited in the BIWAKO BIENNALE will help visitors rediscover their fine sense of beauty and venerate the beauty of nature occasionally in their everyday life. Furthermore, I wish for every visitor, when confronted with the artworks, to be able to see into the deepest corners of their soul and have a sincere conversation with themselves.

    As always, many people were there to help us. Volunteers from Omihachiman and other parts of the country as well as interns from abroad. I am immensely grateful to them, as all of this could not have been possible without their participation. It is my sincere hope that the eighth BIWAKO BIENNALE, a magnificent symphony of energy and enthusiasm of all those involved, will resonate pleasantly in the heart of each visitor.

    - Director Yoko Nakata

    Ryan Villamael (b. 1987) is an artist who has chosen to abstain from the more liberal modes of art expression to ultimately resort to the more deliberate handiwork found in cut paper. While his method follows the decorative nature innate to his medium of choice, from the intricately latticed constructions emerge images that defy the ornamental patchwork found in the tradition of paper cutting.

    His intervention into the fragile medium entails not just cutting but concept. By contemplating paper as a fraught site—after all, it is also the medium of books, maps, and other archival materials—he liberates the material to become an arbiter of meaning, one that traffics in the intersection of self and society, of biography and geography. His practice becomes a treatise of a unique vision that encompasses both the inner and outer conditions that occupy the psyche, which range from the oblique complexity of imagined organisms to the outright effects of living in a convoluted city.

    In 2015, he received the Ateneo Art Award with studio Residency Grants in La Trobe University Visual Arts Center in Bendigo, Australia, Artesan Gallery in Singapore, and Liverpool Hope University in Liverpool, UK.

    Villamael participated in the 2016 Singapore Biennale. He has exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum in Chiang Mai, Para Site in Hong Kong, the Arts House in Singapore, ROH Projects in Jakarta, and the Metropolitan Museum in Manila.

Ryan Villamael is among the selected artists to participate in Biwako Biennale 2018.

Since its beginning in 2001, the exhibition utlizes venues throughout the old town of Omihachiman. There are 13 exhibition venues, and Villamael’s work is on view at the Kenekichi Bettei townhouse.

An installation composed of finely cut latticework from replicas of geographical maps, the first iteration of 'Locus Amoenus' was at the 2016 Singapore Biennale. It has then expanded out of the “glass hall” at Singapore Art Museum and thrives in new territories, recently at the MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum exhibition, “Diaspora: Exit, Exile, Exodus of Southeast Asia” then at the Ateneo Art Gallery, and now cascading from the wooden ceiling of the Kenekichi Bettei townhouse.

With this year’s theme, ‘KIZASHI~BEYOND’, the artists will explore universal aspirations and pour all their energy into touching hearts and inspiring souls.

Marked by the start of the 21st century, BIWAKO Biennale began in 2001. The exhibition utilizes venues throughout the old town of Omihachiman. Omihachiman was built as a castle town by Hidetsugu Toyotomi and is known as the birthplace of the Omi merchants. Today, several areas of the old town are designated for preservation by the city, including : Shinmachi street, lined with houses built in Edo period; Nagahara street, the townscape along the Hachiman canal: as well as the grounds of Himure Hachiman shrine. These sites have been registered by the government as “Omihachiman Hachiman traditional buildings preservation district”. Dotted throughout the old town many empty, old houses, after falling into disrepair, eventually become parking lots or new, modern houses. In an effort to save these irreplaceable historic buildings, BIWAKO Biennale attempts put them to use. BIWAKO Biennale begins by cleaning these long neglected buildings with the help of volunteers comprised of both local residents and people from across Japan. Then, artists from home and abroad work with each of the spaces to turn them into works of art.

The scorching heat in August threatened to melt everything under the sun, and the never-ending September rain and typhoons caused terrible damage in many parts of Japan. We are seeing yet another year of natural disasters ravaging the country, leaving massive devastation in their wake. Still, October was welcomed by a sweet osmanthus fragrance wafting through the town, a promise of a peaceful autumn.

Witnessing how nature goes about its business, we have organized BIWAKO BIENNALE for years, holding it for the eighth time this year. In a small town of Omihachiman it may still be as inconspicuous as unnoticed roadside flowers. Actually, all works are harmonized to the spaces and spin the history of the houses to a new future.

The venues are mostly vacant houses. It is heart-wrenching to see these abandoned buildings looking as if they had lost their soul without inhabitants. How many people have come and gone between these walls in the last two centuries? Memories and traces of their previous occupants are left to linger in the air. By cleaning the houses and exhibiting art there, we bring them back to life. Each time, I am deeply moved by this process.

I first came to Omihachiman and discovered the town as a treasure of Japan with so many old buildings well preserved, displaying the essence of Japanese aesthetic. When you live abroad for as long as I did, you develop the ability to objectively see both good and bad sides of your home country. I realized, for instance, that Japan is among only a few countries that have four distinct seasons with changing seasonal landscapes. We have Spring with cherry blossoms painting the whole country in pink, Summer enveloped in thick green foliage moistening the air, Fall with red and yellow leaves covering the feet of mountains, and Winter that turns landscapes into a silver world.

Sadly, however, the attitudes and mentalities the Japanese have developed while living surrounded by such abundant nature are now being lost in our modern world.

Hopefully, the artworks exhibited in the BIWAKO BIENNALE will help visitors rediscover their fine sense of beauty and venerate the beauty of nature occasionally in their everyday life. Furthermore, I wish for every visitor, when confronted with the artworks, to be able to see into the deepest corners of their soul and have a sincere conversation with themselves.

As always, many people were there to help us. Volunteers from Omihachiman and other parts of the country as well as interns from abroad. I am immensely grateful to them, as all of this could not have been possible without their participation. It is my sincere hope that the eighth BIWAKO BIENNALE, a magnificent symphony of energy and enthusiasm of all those involved, will resonate pleasantly in the heart of each visitor.

- Director Yoko Nakata

Ryan Villamael (b. 1987) is an artist who has chosen to abstain from the more liberal modes of art expression to ultimately resort to the more deliberate handiwork found in cut paper. While his method follows the decorative nature innate to his medium of choice, from the intricately latticed constructions emerge images that defy the ornamental patchwork found in the tradition of paper cutting.

His intervention into the fragile medium entails not just cutting but concept. By contemplating paper as a fraught site—after all, it is also the medium of books, maps, and other archival materials—he liberates the material to become an arbiter of meaning, one that traffics in the intersection of self and society, of biography and geography. His practice becomes a treatise of a unique vision that encompasses both the inner and outer conditions that occupy the psyche, which range from the oblique complexity of imagined organisms to the outright effects of living in a convoluted city.

In 2015, he received the Ateneo Art Award with studio Residency Grants in La Trobe University Visual Arts Center in Bendigo, Australia, Artesan Gallery in Singapore, and Liverpool Hope University in Liverpool, UK.

Villamael participated in the 2016 Singapore Biennale. He has exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum in Chiang Mai, Para Site in Hong Kong, the Arts House in Singapore, ROH Projects in Jakarta, and the Metropolitan Museum in Manila.

Installation Views

Artist Page

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