_Jimena Kato_“MA” (間) Empty /Full_06_09/07_29_23_Dossier

The Heart Sutra, one of the most famous texts of Buddhism, affirms that “form is not different from the void and the void is no different from form.” This apparent paradox is in the dominant philosophy of Japanese culture, where absence can be just as important as presence. The principle can be summarised in the concept of “MA””, which can be roughly translated as “negative space”, while its deeper meaning evokes the idea of the “gap” or “pause” that gives new form and meaning to everything.

The character “ma” (間) combines the characters for “door”, above, and “sun”, below: a light that passes through the empty space of an entrance. This is how “ma” is respected in architecture and in interior design, in houses and in minimalist ceremonial and religious structures; yet it is not just about “minimalism” and “pulchritude”, since the concept can turn emptiness into a substance in itself, a literal empty space that could be built, for example, in a traditional Japanese living room: a room for exhibition that is generally filled with a parchment, a bonsai or some other art object in function of the season, with only a few objects accentuating the empty space surrounding them.

In ancient art forms, like the pruning of the bonsai, or the ikebana floral arrangement, the outlines of the empty space between the components are as just important as each stem, branch or flower itself.

The concept of “MA” goes quite beyond visual or spatial notions. It can be sonorous, as in the silence between musical notes that makes up a composition. It could be social, as with the deliberate pause at the end of a prayer before getting up, or the instinctive silences in a conversation that let all participants comfortably express themselves. It could also be temporal, the interval between events, like the intermission in a performance or a much-needed pause in the middle of a harried day. In this way, “MA” is everywhere, like with the optical illusion of the two faces that also shows the shape of a vase by means of the negative space between them. “MA” is something present in all facets of our lives, whether cultivated consciously or not, just as the absence of a body precisely evokes its presence.

We can all find inspiration in this ancient principle, creating spaces for those things that matter, for something surprising or sublime that might be found in the gaps. As the Japan writer and cultural critic Junichiro Tanizaki stated in 1933: “we find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates.”

In this exhibition at Galería Ángeles Baños, I present a series of pieces where I explore dialogue with the body and materials through the concept of “MA”, through the void and the space it occupies. Understanding the gallery space like a neutral container that inherently gathers inside of itself, all the potentialities of possible past and future exhibitions.

Jimena Kato, 2023

With the support