the beauty of grotesque (planet S review)


there is a review of my show at the mendel art gallery in this week’s edition of planet S, saskatoon’s city magazine. i’m happy to find that the reviewer understands what i’m doing, with the review titled “the beauty of grotesque”. the reviewer says “[my drawings] are seeming to be part of a larger whole that Yamaguchi is pointing toward”. i think my drawings make sense when they are seen all together, as part of one experience. that’s why i like to hang as many drawings on one wall as possible, maybe not even using frames so they can all be close together. that way, nothing is separating my drawings from each other, and also, i don’t have to buy frames.

i also like the ending part: “This juxtaposition, creating a place where we can neither be only horrified or simply think happy, cutesy thoughts makes Yamaguchi’s work both enjoyable and memorable.” i can’t separate those feelings in my mind. they are not opposites to me, they are all living in my head at the same time. i guess my art work is kind of like “yami-nabe style”. everything is all mixed together, and you never know what you’re going to get.

here is the review:

The Beauty Of Grotesque

by Bart Gazzola


Yuka Yamaguchi is currently exhibiting at the Mendel Art Gallery, through an ongoing gallery project titled “Artists by Artists.” The project pairs an experienced artist (in this case, Yuka is paired with noted Saskatoon artist and frequent Planet S contributor extraordinaire Dave Geary) with a more emerging one, with the resulting work exhibited in the lower space at the Mendel.

Over the past few years, the concept has been interpreted in different ways by the different participants: sometimes the result features solely the work of the junior artist, and other times a collaborative installation takes place. In regards to the current installation, Yamaguchi explains on her website that the pair made the decision to collaborate on Personal : Political because Geary’s work, with its propaganda motifs and socialist imagery is the latter, whereas Yamaguchi’s work seems to be very much biographical—a personal narrative that is being shared with the viewer.

Yamaguchi was also one of a number of artists who exhibited at the now-defunct Royal Red Gallery: her small, delicate drawings immediately pulled the viewer in, even in that massive space—and they’re as well-executed as they are disturbing. Her bio describes her as a self-taught artist, from Kobe, Japan, stating that “her drawings are inward-looking, reaching both extremes of cute and grotesque.” Very simply done, with coloured pencil or ballpoint pen—and always seeming to be part of a larger whole that Yamaguchi is pointing towards—her works are indicators that sometimes art school can be the worst thing for a potential artist. Her unique, bizarre vision could easily have been lost there, or subjected to the usual problem of instructors wanting to create younger versions of themselves.

Works such as “New Heartbeat”, where a young girl holds her very anatomically correct heart to her ear in a gesture of love or listening, or “After All…”, where a boy is partly flayed by what looks like a common kitchen utensil, easily fit within the grotesque. But “Chicken Fight”, or “Self Portrait, Age 17”, are both . . . well, cute. Not a word I use often, but it applies here.

Some works incorporate both of these seemingly disparate concepts, such as “Inseparable”, where a cute, pre-teen couple are tying themselves together by their respective hanging tendons and muscles, which hang in ribbons from their severed calves. Both are smiling, and seem pleased with the arrangement, and I am reminded of the Japanese horror film Audition, which was really a love story, with the classic admonition that “you must love only me.” “All I Can See” is both creepy and very, very funny, and will make some men reconsider before they carry on a conversation with a woman’s breasts instead of her face.

On her website ( she explains that her latest endeavour is the “turn everything around you cute and fun” project, and her sense of humour is clear in her work, although sometimes that humour at play is somewhat black. This juxtaposition, creating a place where we can neither be only horrified or simply think happy, cutesy thoughts makes Yamaguchi’s work both enjoyable and memorable.

also, it looks like i am on Bravo!News this week. i was interviewed by them back in april. i don’t have a cable connection at the moment (we’re moving this week), so i don’t know. i was also interviewed by the local Shaw TV channel. the interview aired in mid-april. again, i didn’t watch tv enough to catch it. if you are watching tv sometime tomorrow in canada, you might see me actually talking.

Author: yuka

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8 thoughts on “the beauty of grotesque (planet S review)”

  1. Hello Yuka! I just read your entry back in November ’06 about an artist who drew inspiration from children’s dreams and remembered a photographer who’s work I came across a few years ago. His name’s Arthur Tress and back in the ’70s, he also asked children from all over the world to submit their dreams to him and he recreated those scenes by staging the children in his black and white photos. Check out the book, “Arthur Tress: Theater of the Mind” or even this site for a quick glimpse of his work. :0)

  2. Hello Yuka!
    I saw your art at the Mendel about a month ago [can’t stop raving about it and telling everybody I know!] Its absolutely fantastic. I love it.
    I’ve been wanting to get a couple of postcard sets… except I don’t have a credit card to order online. Is there anywhere in Saskatoon that I could go to to get some? If you could e-mail me and let me know [] – I would be so happy.
    Thanks in advance, and congrats on the great Planet S review!

  3. This is my favorite type of art, the kind that is unpredictable and where things seemingly don’t fit together but they really do after you think about it for a while. This Planet S work is absolutely phenomenal!

  4. Considering the paradoxical times we live today, your work is undoubtedly a significant contribution. In my Imaginarium, I’ve dedicated “The Cute and The Creepy” to you. It is a recent post that explores some of your best images ( Hoping to hear from you, I send you my best regards, Akermariano :)

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