Yuki Nakamura

Tacoma, WA | by June 27, 2011

Yuki Nakamura’s stu­dio is as white as porce­lain. She painted its dark wood pan­el­ing mul­ti­ple times until her walls became so stark they almost seem to dis­ap­pear. The spa­cious stu­dio in Yuki’s day lit base­ment reflects her artis­tic practice.

Yuki is a Tacoma-​​based ceramic artist who favors sim­ple forms and min­i­mal color, yet a sense of com­plex emo­tion, hushed and sub­li­mated, emanates from within her sculp­tural instal­la­tions. Her bul­bous forms, discs, blocks, and spare, clean con­tours map­ping islands and the topog­ra­phy of tree bark con­sider “macro and micro worlds and how they shift within the inter­nal, human and sub­jec­tive per­spec­tive, how they become increas­ingly con­fused, chaotic and full of turmoil.”

Yuki often orders the chaos of our fast paced, ever chang­ing world through the rep­e­ti­tion of mod­u­lar forms, most recently cast­ing var­i­ously sized incan­des­cent light bulbs in porce­lain. She then arranges them in care­fully mea­sured clus­ters or Braille like lines. The pro­trud­ing bulbs seem­ingly con­gre­gate like crowds, or sen­tries aligned in rows and columns.

Yuki com­bines the porce­lain light bulbs with addi­tional mate­ri­als such as light boxes and plex­i­glas. She is com­mit­ted to push­ing her hori­zons by per­pet­u­ally explor­ing new media. While drawn to the rich poten­tial of clay, Yuki is also com­pelled by how more con­tem­po­rary mate­ri­als can con­vey not only a sense of space but of time. Poly­mer prod­ucts’ gloss and the glow of video pro­jec­tions place her work in a con­tem­po­rary context.

Fur­ther­more, by com­bin­ing “van­ish­ing” light bulbs with new light sources that are replac­ing them, Yuki addresses the con­nec­tion between cul­tural amne­sia and the built in obso­les­cence of “ana­log” objects in our tech­no­log­i­cally dri­ven soci­ety. Through her work Yuki reflects upon “how time and space change in sync with our con­stantly evolv­ing environment.”

Yuki’s cul­tural envi­ron­ment changed dra­mat­i­cally in the mid-​​1990s, when she moved from Japan to Seat­tle to pur­sue her MFA in ceram­ics at the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton. Yuki grew up in Shikoku, an island in south­ern Japan. Grow­ing up on and then leav­ing an island peaked Yuki’s inter­est in islands’ dis­tinctly rec­og­niz­able shapes, delin­eated by “a very clear bound­ary between land and water.” Her explo­ration of such geo­graphic bound­aries alludes to rela­tion­ships between a sense of place and a sense of iden­tity. More­over, her work explores bound­aries more gen­er­ally, ques­tion­ing the “ten­u­ous con­nec­tion between the two worlds; the inter­nal sub­jec­tive self and the exter­nal world of cul­tural façade.”

I was struck by how ten­u­ous leg­i­bil­ity itself is while vis­it­ing Yuki’s stu­dio. I mis­took the organic con­tours on her “Tree Map Pil­lows” for unknown islands. While at a res­i­dency in France, Yuki noted the visual con­nec­tion, which accounted for my con­fu­sion, between the bark on tree trunks out­side her stu­dio and islands. She decided to “tres­pass” onto a par­tic­u­lar tree’s seem­ingly topo­graph­i­cal bark by adher­ing and inte­grat­ing red wall­pa­per tem­plates of its con­tours directly onto the tree’s trunk.

Yuki’s tem­po­ral inter­ven­tion and sub­se­quent pil­low sculp­tures high­light macro and micro con­nec­tions as they illu­mi­nate the con­tin­gency of recog­ni­tion. Though bound­aries may be clear, the iden­tity of what they define, whether cul­tural, geo­graph­i­cal, organic, or psy­cho­log­i­cal, is terra incog­nita with­out context.

Soc­cer balls, the sub­ject of another series, stim­u­late sen­sory con­fu­sion and become more poignant with con­text. These porce­lain forms appear mal­leable, hov­er­ing in space or pro­trud­ing from walls in var­i­ous states of defla­tion, but are rigid and fragile.

Yuki cre­ated dozens of porce­lain soc­cer balls as an elegy to her brother, a soc­cer coach who died at age 36. Yuki’s brother stayed on Shikoku where soc­cer, like many sports across the globe, offers hope of escape from provin­cial con­fines or eco­nomic lim­i­ta­tions. The soc­cer balls have trav­eled to a vari­ety of venues, itin­er­ant and ghostly, they evoke globes and dreams.

A dark nar­row stair­case leads to Yuki’s open stu­dio space. Upon descend­ing and enter­ing her stu­dio I simul­ta­ne­ously noticed its dis­crete, orga­nized work-​​stations, expe­ri­enced its atmos­pheric light, and felt a sense of pos­si­bil­ity. Yuki’s walls almost van­ish cre­at­ing a space where hori­zons are open, the past is pre­served, emo­tions embod­ied, and bound­aries are per­pet­u­ally negotiated.


For more infor­ma­tion about Yuki’s work visit her web­site: www.neoimages.net/artistportfolio.aspx?pid=731

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