Lockhart exhibit portrays prisoner’s struggle in stark charcoal

The Lockhart Gallery exhibit, “A Man Digs a Hole,” opened on Feb. 7 and features the work of adjunct professor of studio art Rio Takemura ‘08. The modest yet thought-provoking exhibition is comprised of 10 drawings, all inspired by the writings of a Japanese author and World War II prisoner. Takemura named the show after reading a specific account by the author, who was forced by an American soldier to dig a hole in the middle of the night at a prison camp.

“The intention of the drawings was not really to draw the story that the soldier experienced; that’s not my purpose,” Takemura said. “I played with this memory of what I read, and that’s about it. That’s why there are so many different people. They’re not all digging holes. The result is me playing with that memory.”

The works in “A Man Digs a Hole” are all untitled drawings composed with two types of media: charcoal and pencil. The drawings are mostly a white blank space, with either individual anonymous figures or birds eliciting a somber feeling.

Their actions vary: digging a hole, swinging an axe pick or holding a shovel. The use of smudged charcoal adds to the anonymity of the faceless figures, a technique Takemura utilized throughout the drawings.

One particularly striking piece is visible upon first entering the gallery. It depicts a girl tied to the handle of a standing shovel with what appears to be a raven perched on it. The presence of the black bird gives off an eerie quality that ties together the exhibit as a whole. The bird and girl are positioned to look at each other, and there is a sense of imprisonment hidden behind the bold charcoal marks.

Another standout piece that plays upon the title of the exhibition depicts a man digging a black hole in a bleak and minimal landscape. He appears worn – his body stopped at the knees and buried in an ambiguous dark material. There is a feeling of deliberate incompleteness to this piece, and even without knowing or reading the soldier’s tragic story that Takemura so vividly recalls in his work, a viewer can feel the heavy mood this figure carries while standing framed on a white wall.

While pleased with the response of the students at the show, Takemura said he is dissatisfied with the depth of his own work.

“All of these [drawings] are way too comfortable for me. Technique-wise, concept-wise … I’m not pushing myself enough to step outside of my comfort zone,” Takemura said.

The inspiration behind the drawings is unique; however, the media used is artistically simple and displays no advanced technique. As one of the last shows of the semester, it is surprising to see an experienced artist not present more challenging work, especially as the art department comes to a close on campus.

“A Man Digs a Hole” remains in exhibition in the Lockhart Gallery until March 13.