Salt Mine | 岩塩坑
7 March – 23 May 2011
Deriding Japan’s salary-man culture is the theme of the Scottish Tokyo-based artist Jack McLean’s exhibition, Salt Mine, at The Container. The artist, who is best known to the art scene through his reactionary action works, such as digging a hole in parks or setting sculptures on fire, is presenting a playful sculptural installation on unfinished planks of wood, reminiscent of Manga characters.
McLean, who has recently took a part-time job at a large corporation, which he refers to with affection as “the salt mine”, has been using his time traveling on Tokyo trains to people-watch, draw and reflect on the impact of one’s insignificance in these large corporations. This time for reflection saw McLean unleash an extensive series of small black ink drawings; fantastic in their surrealism and wit, and sharp as a razor. Characters with names such as “One Eye Bastard” and “Tart up” mix cynicism, humour and anguish and are realised into colourful sculptural manifestations through which viewers will be forced to negotiate, in the confined space of the shipping container.
It is not all fun and games though, McLean’s unfinished planks of wood deeply suggest the unrefined and bland lifestyle these people are forced to adopt, becoming standarised and insignificant, a dime a dozen; while their glistening teeth and eyes are often horrific, manic, comical and desperate.
McLean’s decision to dress some of his characters with accessories: necklaces and ties, eye glasses and hygienic masks, recapitulates the predictability in which one’s entire existence can be summed up by a simple object. These culturally well-recognised symbols evolve to no more than an external extension of one’s body and entity.