Article by Miranda Seaver
Venue: Anno Domini Gallery
Featuring: SKRAPS solo exhibition of Yasushi Matsui
Memory is fleeting. Some things fade into obscurity, and what remains shifts slightly over time, becoming colored and warped as if left in the sun. Senses overlap and eventually create something new based solely on what our brains deemed the most important. I was raised with cameras upon cameras, things that can help with constant documentation and create a massive backlog of picture-perfect moments that I never have the time to look through. Is this the best way to go about life? I used to think so. Now, however, I am more inclined to lean into transience, as Yasushi Matsui does in his print collection SKRAPS.
SKRAPS is a neo-zine currently hosted in Anno Domini, a small independent art gallery in downtown San Jose that specializes in the cutting edge. But Matsui’s zine is not a physical book you can leaf through. Instead he’s taken the artwork from his travels and displayed it on the wall in a cluster of thrift store frames, creating an experience you can view both all at once and one at a time.
Matsui is a modern-day nomad, living out of his van in California, and out of his backpack during his overseas trips. You can see representations of both of these in the large front and back “covers” that bookend the wall of frames. Early on he knew he wanted to remember his experiences, so he picked up scraps of papers and hand-bound them into makeshift sketchbooks that he then used to document his life. The original journals are on display, and keeping with the DIY aesthetic so common in zine culture, he’s scanned his overlapping designs and printed them out on hand-made Washi paper, an ancient process Matsui picked up from a master papermaker in the Atago region of Japan.
There’s something very special in seeing the fruit of Matsui’s traveling as seen through his eyes. He doesn’t provide an exact depiction of his journeys, instead finding his interest in creating something more conceptual. Visual memory combines with the surreal to create mesmerizing images, and standing in front of the zine as a whole you’re given plenty of opportunity to find something new. There’s a butterfly with a view of the ocean in its outstretched wings, flowers blooming from the body of bird and a desert horizon laid out in the torso of a coyote. It’s the type of thing that’s meant to be taken in, eyes scanning the wall from one end to the other, your attention occasionally being caught to certain images like a sweater to a stray branch.
What I think really brings out Matsui’s work is its intent. SKRAPS was made as a private journal, a documentation for his own reference that was only printed for the public on a whim. Because of that there’s no outside influence. We’re seeing Matsui’s memories in a way that only he could decipher, and even then the initial meaning of the work may be long since lost to time. It’s like looking at a stranger’s dream journal – it doesn’t really make a lot of sense, but it’s clear it meant something to someone at some point in time. And there’s something magical about that.
Much like memory, Matsui works in impermanence. He has only made one copy of each of his prints, and once they’re taken from the collection they’re gone for good. SKRAPS also contains two canvas tapestries that were created during a live painting event, a testament to a moment that will never happen again. And once Matsui’s work leaves Anno Domini, it’s unsure where he’ll pop up next. Perhaps Tahoe, or Mexico, or even someplace like Indonesia.
So, take in SKRAPS while it’s still in one piece. It’s absolutely something worth remembering.