To S.I.R. With Love

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By Elise-Marie Brown

S.I.R.'s Noa at work. All photos by Elise-Marie Brown

I’ve been to a fair number of art openings, and many consist of a DJ mixing music as people sip drinks and converse about why they like a particular piece of work. Now, don’t get me wrong: art events are a cheap and easy way to meet people, support local talent, and occasionally score some free booze. But sometimes you need more of an incentive to go out.

By Elise-Marie Brown

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S.I.R.'s Noa at work. All photos by Elise-Marie Brown

I’ve been to a fair number of art openings, and many consist of a DJ mixing music as people sip drinks and converse about why they like a particular piece of work. Now, don’t get me wrong: art events are a cheap and easy way to meet people, support local talent, and occasionally score some free booze. But sometimes you need more of an incentive to go out.

Enter S.I.R. (Surreality in Reality), a Japanese art crew residing in the San Francisco Bay area that aims to bridge cultures through different mediums and live art performances. “Four Elements Vol. 3土 –Earth-” is their latest exhibition, the third installment of an elements of nature series (past exhibits incorporated water and fire).

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The Pineapple, The Pineapple Stool and the Soil Girls, by Koji Nagao

The smell of smoke and sounds of laughter floated around Space Gallery's front entrance on opening night. Once I entered the small building, it was replaced by '90s hip-hop and the aroma of Red Stripe beer. The walls showcased photos printed on seed paper, oil and watercolor paintings, silk-screened graphic art, and sculptures. 

One piece that caught my attention was a wooden box with 10 handcrafted dolls placed on top, titled The Pineapple, The Pineapple Stool and the Soil Girls, by Koji Nagao. When I first glanced at it I assumed the box was used as a prop for the dolls. But after observing for a minute, I noticed a little hole to the left where I could peek through and see what was inside: a bright light with moving images, and to my surprise, a stop-motion video that incorporated the same dolls.

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Yusai and Zaion of S.I.R.

After checking out the first floor, I moved upstairs, where the music and conversation was louder. Yusai, a man in a baseball cap and red flannel shirt, spun records, as Zaion synthesized music on his laptop.

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Noa's art takes form

At the top of the narrow stairway a tall man by the name of Noa faced a large wall covered in brown paper. Wearing paint-stained jeans and a white T-shirt, he walked across the floor in his bare feet, leaned down to the ground, and dipped a thick brush in a can of black paint. With a look of deep concentration he painted large swirls on the paper. After a few minutes the shapes of an elephant, rhinoceros, fox, and tiger began to take form from the previously indecipherable elegant images. Look closely -- S.I.R. has something unique to offer the art world.