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