Leave it to a printmaker to create paintings that so deftly navigate the liminal terrain between abstraction and representation, between organic form and geometry, between texture, detail and design. Born in Japan, Seiko Tachibana received an MFA in printmaking at SFAI in 1995, and has since settled in the Bay Area to pursue her art. Her show of modestly sized but profoundly conceived paintings at Ruth Bachofner in Los Angeles amply demonstrated the range of techniques in her toolbox, and her ability to work both meticulously and intuitively, often in the same works. Beyond that, they also showed an impressive capacity to invoke and integrate a range of disparate worlds and sources, from traditional Eastern landscape painting to biological imaging to celestial maps. Despite their delicacy, the works conjure vast systems on both a micro- and macro-scale, along with an abiding sense of wonderment.
Several of the works specifically evoked the Milky Way, our own sprawling galactic habitat. Three works titled Connection – Milky Way C-1, C-2, and C-3 (all 2016), present a star map spread across a triptych, with white dots dappling a cloudy dark field, with the middle panel in each a darker square. The tiny white dots are linked together with a web of delicate white lines, turning the astronomical cartography into a more elusive geometry that suggests maps of neural or molecular networks, or where the eye travels on a field. Two large square works, Connection – Milky Way O-4, and Connection – Milky Way O-2, suggest meditations on the Big Bang. In the shrewd gallery hanging, the works are linked vertically by a 10-by-10 inch square work, a little mini-bang, which could almost be a cell. Other works, such as the horizontal diptych, Link Scene – 1, overtly evoke landscape, with forested hills wedged between sky and lake; leaning closer, a viewer can discern a thicket of tiny fern- and-plantlike patterns sprouting within. Connection – Blossom J-1 presents a sumptuous balance of precise and organic shapes, with fragmentary star maps mingling with tiny round umbrella patterns against a washy gray field, while numerous black, stain-like blobs weave ominously among them, like a web of toxic growths.
At the center of the installation is a grid of 8-by-6 inch panels, spelling out a playful lexicon of organic form. Parading the simplicity of Tachibana’s essential vocabulary it also shows the range of complexity it effectuates, like the building blocks of life. The “Links” of her show’s title are no less captivating for being open-ended.