a few days after i arrived in japan, i was contacted by a writer, jenn sharp from verb newspaper in saskatoon. she wanted to interview me to write about my solo show, ‘indoor playground’ at the stall gallery.
i had only one day to answer — she emailed me question on may 5th –> i returned my anwers on may 6th. the paper was published on may 8th! she only had one day to summarize my answer and write about the show… it’s amazing how quickly things happen in the newspaper world.
i like the way she incorporated my answers in her article, especially the inclusion of my quote, ‘i never let myself worry about what other people will think‘. it’s my mantra. this mantra is amazing. repeat it several times and bam! you no longer worry about what other people think. it is more effective if you shout this mantra as you run down the shore at dusk.
you can read the paper on their website www.verbnews.com . search for issue 38, local arts page 6.
Yuka Yamaguchi’s Indoor Playgound
Saskatoon , SK — Yuka Yamaguchi’s artwork is cute, colourful and often startling. In Taste of Mama a cute child peels what appears to be an apple but is actually a female breast, nipple intact. Others feature children missing limbs or scissors cutting a frog, who sits on a crumpled piece of paper in a twist on the classic game.
Yamaguchi hails from Kobe, Japan but now resides in Saskatoon. A self-taught, full-time artist since 2006, her show Indoor Playground is on display at the new Stall Gallery in The Farmer’s Market Square until May 24th. A self professed “child at heart”, she hopes people “will have fun looking at the drawings [and] find the show interesting and worth a look without giving a second thought to what it means.
The most powerful part of the exhibit is a wall dedicated to nursing and oppai (breasts in Japanese). The drawings express many of the emotions she felt when nursing her first child. “My drawings mostly end up as unintentional self-portraits… but that’s often an accident. I don’t intend my drawings to be an autobiography, ” Yamaguchi told Verb. Yamaguchi says pregnancy and motherhood changed her artwork as she started drawing in vivid colours and noticed images of her baby appearing in her work.
Yamaguchi explains that she does not believe in the idea of influence: “Some people from Canada think my weird ideas must be from Japanese culture but most Japanese people think my art is weird too…my art comes out of me.” Endearingly honest, she says “I never let myself worry about what other people will think about my drawing. What I’m doing is not based on other people’s ideas… I’m drawing for myself.” Each creation in the 20 piece collection combines elements of fun and peculiarity. There is even a space set aside for drawing in case you feel inspired. She also shows her art online, giving people freedom in viewing and making it a “part of their everyday life.”
and here are the interview questions in full:
Verb newspaper interview May 6, 2009
1. How long have you been creating artwork? How has your style changed and evolved over the years?
I’ve been drawing to amuse myself for years but only full-time since 2006. In 2004 I showed some work at a women’s art festival in Kingston, Ontario and got a really nice response. There were photos I’d taken of plastic doctor and nurse dolls I found at the dollar store, homemade toys for adult-children, and some simple drawings I did in markers.
I was drawing off and on for the next couple years but not taking it seriously. I moved to Saskatoon and started showing my artwork on Flickr and on my blog, plastiquemonkey.com. I was offered a show of drawings at Royal Red gallery (in the Phonographique music shop). I realized I didn’t have much to show so I did most of the drawings for that show in 2 weeks. Then AKA Gallery invited me to participate in a book fair. I accepted but then realized I didn’t have a book to show. So I made up a children’s story about an amigurumi (knit) dog called Spencer The Ennui Dog and took photos of him and my other characters around my apartment and around the city. People thought the book was funny so I ended up making postcards of it.
Since 2006 I’ve been drawing whenever I have enough time. I draw with color pencils on paper. My style has changed as I have learned new techniques for combining colors and shading. But the ideas in my drawings haven’t changed too much over this time. Images come to me from somewhere and I start drawing. Sometimes the drawing changes halfway through and I surprise myself. I don’t sketch or erase or re-draw anything. I get really excited and can’t stop myself from drawing whatever image has popped up in my mind.
2. Have you noticed your artistic style adapting to changes in your personal life? Has the birth of your son and having him in your life influenced your creativity?
Before I got pregnant I used pastel colors most of the time. When I got pregnant, even before I found out, I started drawing in vivid colors, too. My drawings mostly end up as unintentional self-portraits, one way or another. Looking back I can see things have been happening to my body in pregnancy and with breastfeeding and I can find my baby appearing. But that’s often an accident — I don’t intend my drawings to be an autobiography or anything.
Having my son has changed the way I work. I draw at home and Elijah is home with me. I used to draw whenever I felt like it and would keep drawing until the piece was finished. I would stay up all night, draw for 14 hours almost non-stop, that kind of thing. Now I can only draw when Elijah is sleeping, and that only lasts for a few hours, at best. I have to motivate myself to draw when I have time, even if I’m tired or don’t feel like it. That’s been a big change, and I’m only just getting used to it now.
3. Do you think your life imitates your art or your art expresses your own life?
I’m not sure. Both my life and my art depend on me. There’s a loop between them, but it’s twisted. I don’t know which one comes first.
4. I enjoyed the description of your artwork as “useless toys and art for adult children”. Do you consider yourself an adult child?
I’m a child at heart. That’s one of my favorite things about motherhood, I get to play with my son and share his mentality sometimes.
5. How often do you visit Japan and what influences from that culture play a part in your artwork?
I was born and raised in Japan and my parents still live there. Some people from Canada think my weird ideas must be from Japanese culture but most Japanese people think my art is weird, too. I don’t like the idea of influence: I never went to art school, I don’t know much about art history, I rarely go to art galleries, and I don’t have time to pay attention to popular culture in Canada or Japan. My work comes out of me, but I don’t know where it comes from.
6. What reactions would you like to see from people that view your current exhibit at the Stall Gallery?
I want them to have fun looking at my drawings. I show my art online so that people can see it at home or at work, as part of their everyday life. The Stall Gallery is in the same building as the farmer’s market at the River Landing. I like the idea that people who are walking around buying everyday food will stumble across my art. I like to think of myself as an art farmer, growing images and showing them to people. I hope they find the show interesting and worth a look without giving a second thought to what it means. I left a children’s table with some paper in the gallery so people visiting the show can draw something if they feel inspired.
7. Do you have a favorite piece at the exhibit?
You’re not supposed to pick a favorite of your children! I like the variety. I’m showing lots of brand new drawings and some from the past few years. There are some big poster-style pieces in markers and a set of small alphabet drawings on colorful paper about “oppai” (breastfeeding) that I did for Elijah. I like putting an exhibit like this together because I find new things in my drawings when I hang them next to each other in groups.
8. Your art seems to push boundaries and norms. Do you enjoy that controversial aspect?
I don’t think my work is controversial. I never let myself worry about what other people will think about my drawing. What I’m doing is not based on other people’s ideas or expectations or boundaries. I’m drawing for myself.