computer arts project magazine interview

i was interviewed by charlotte river from a british magazine called computer arts project.  she interviewed six international artists including myself.  she sent me many questions via email.  she edited it for her article.  i’m happy about my drawings that she chose to show.

i think you can still buy this issue at bookstores.

interview with art junkie

i was contacted by a writer, carlos resendez from a blog called “art junkie” from mexico.  he wanted to do an interview with me.  he told me that this will be the first interview on his blog.  i was happy to answer his questions.  he kindly asked questions in english for me.  the interview on the blog is in spanish.  so here’s the english version.

1.-Do you think that things that are real and things that are surreal are not separated? If so, how do you think they are related?

to me, surreal things are created in a reality, my reality. what i draw is deeply connected to how i feel at the moment. my images are my realizations of my ideas and emotions, captured by color pencils. that’s how i express my reality.

2.-How do you think that animals are linked to humans?

humans are linked to animals, i think, not other way around. our behavior is very animal-like.

i have a two-year old son. i enjoyed his first non-verbal year — being very aware of eye contact, smells, touch, etc. when i was cuddling with him, i felt like a bear.

(( i find things sensual amusing. for example, i remember a particular smell of my childhood. every time i encounter the smell, i’m back in particular time when i was a child. ))

3.-In which way did your children influence your art?

i was using vivid colors when i was pregnant. before then, i mostly preferred gentle pale tones.

i drew ‘new heartbeat’ right after i first listened to my baby’s heartbeat with a doppler. i used very vivid colors for the drawing. after giving birth, i continue to use both pale tones and vivid tones.

spending time with my boy, observing him growing every day, has had a strong impact on me. sometimes, i almost forgot that i was there. i was always watching him. i didn’t lose my eyes, but my eyes were always looking outward and never looked inward last two years. at one point, i think i forgot what i looked like.

in retrospect, i was drawing a girl with a huge heart on top and eventually the heart ran away and grew a tree with no leaves during that time.

eventually my head grew back, but so far i don’t seem to have a body yet.

4.-What are most likely source of inspiration for you, “bad” feelings or “good” ones?

frustration with unfairness or dishonesty helps me a lot. i visualize things simultaneously no matter what, but when i’m angry the images flow.

(( so, for your questions, it’s good and bad feelings, both. ))

5.-what is art for you?

i still feel uncomfortable describing what i do is art, or calling myself an artist. drawing makes me happy.

6.-Could you share one of your biggest fantasies?

i want to be an ugly flying invisible woman, who worries about her appearance even though no one can see her.

7.-Coffee or tea?

i go for milk. i drink coffee more often than tea, but the coffee i drink is 80% milk.

8.- Do you use art as a shield, or as weapon? why?

it’s more like a fish net trap. i don’t use my drawings to send a message or relieve my feelings. often i only realize what’s in my mind after the fact. i’m surprised by what i end up drawing.

9.- what do you know of mexican culture?

not much, sorry.

i like movies though.

“Y tu mama tambien” and “Children of Men” directed by Alfonso Cuaron. He’s fantastic.
and “Amores Perros”, directed by Inarritu.

10.- do you know any mexican artist?

frida kahlo.

i don’t know much about art history and i don’t really follow much of what people are doing in contemporary art.

11.- which museum or gallery would you really love to expose your work?

nowhere, really. these days, i’m not particularly interested in exhibiting my work in a gallery. i like the act of drawing, not showing. i don’t even look at my drawings after i drew them. i don’t display my drawings at home. they all sit in a closet or a file. i’m not interested in looking at my drawings at all.

i use my blog to keep track of what i’m working on. that’s enough for me. to me, drawing is something internal.

12.-do you think that the difference between oriental and occidental culture has affected your work?

i don’t think so. i don’t think physical location determine what you create. it all depends on your place of thought. whether i live in japan or canada or anywhere else, i basically live in my head. my work will be the same. but the time might affect how/what i draw. i don’t/can’t draw the same things that drew in 2006 even though i know they are very popular. i’m a different person every day.

13.- what advice can you give to all the emerging artists?

don’t listen to what other people say — just listen to yourself. having no ears might be a good start.

verb newspaper interview :: Yuka’s indoor playground

verb review

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

Jenn Sharp

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.

interview in madame figaro magazine, taiwan

a taiwan fashion boutique, TUAN TUAN, used my drawings (‘new heartbeat’ and ‘my precious egg’) for their national ad campaign, announcing the opening of their new shop in taipei. they ran full-page ads in the apple daily newspaper, the biggest newspaper in taipei, as well as in a fashion magazine, ‘madame figaro taiwan’.

at the same time, i was interviewed by madame figaro via email. i was answering their questions at 3 in the morning to meet the deadline. i was in a deeply sleepy mode, so some of the answers may not make sense to you at all. that’s okay, because i don’t make sense even when i am wide awake

here’s the interview (published in chinese translation):

Madame Figaro Taiwan.
Interviewed by May Hua: editor in chief

*You have said that you’re self-taught, but your skill of drawing is so far from a so-called self-taught artist, do you mind sharing your story of becoming an artist with our readers? And I’m curious if you have any master in mind while you were learning drawing.

When I was a kid, my favorite thing to do was to look up at clouds and imagine what they might be. This hobby soon expanded to everything I see: I look at a person and think he looks like a teapot, household objects look like different animals, that kind of thing. During conversations, I tend to drift away thinking like this. I often lose track of what the other person is saying – I completely switch off my ears when I’m lost in thought. I think these habits are the root of my imagination.

i spent a few years teaching myself how to look at things before i started drawing seriously three years ago. i remember my brother came home very excited and told me to colour in a circular motion when we were in elementary school. that’s basically what i do. my technique has changed a lot, but the idea is the same. i still have a lot to learn.

i don’t have any art masters that i follow. i just follow what i have in mind honestly.

*Have you ever learned human body’s anatomy? If not, why and how do your paintings have a lot to do with human body and organs?

I’ve never studied human anatomy, but I’m interested in the body organs because I own them under my skin. The internal organs are underrated. Skin always gets the spotlight – now it’s time for organs to become stars. I’ve always liked the brain, and I’m a big fan of the intestines.

Human beings are less sensitive because they’re covered with skin. Once you open up your skin and show what you’ve got inside, you feel every single movement in life, even a gentle breeze. It hurts, but it makes you feel alive.

*I have to say that normally people feel disturbing to see those strange subject matters you drew in your works, however I also have to admit that I don’t feel uncomfortable with your illustrations, on the contrary, they are quite appealling to me. But, why? Is there any magic in your hands?

Some people find my drawings strange or disturbing. But I’m not trying to shock anyone, or make them uncomfortable, just so I can seem radical or cool or extreme. I hate the “extreme” attitude that so many artists have.

The characters in my drawings are not in pain, even if their internal organs are coming out. They are looking inward – it’s a private moment. Sometimes there is a slightly cruel mood in a face that I draw, but it’s mostly innocent and mysterious and peaceful, not violent or aggressive.

When I draw, I don’t think about any audience except myself. I make the same faces as the characters I draw, while I’m drawing them. I draw my drawings so I can look at them, I don’t aim to create any sort of effect or impact on anyone else.

So maybe people can look at my drawings and find something they can gaze at quietly, without being pushed away. That way, maybe they can find something beautiful even in things they find a little disturbing.

*Some of your works seemed cruel, but they also appeared humorous at the same time, such as the duck with a peer’s head in its mouth. I’m wondering how did you come up with these sort of ideas?

I don’t know where I get any of my ideas from! Ideas and images just come to me. I don’t try to make them up – I don’t even know how I’m going to finish drawings after I start them.

A lot of the ideas I have are funny to me, even if other people don’t think they’re funny. I often end up laughing at what I’m drawing.

My sense of humour is a bit twisted. I think life is cruel and humorous at the same time – so cruel that it’s humorous and so humorous that it’s cruel. It’s all intertwined.

*Some of your works reminesced the images of Khalo Frida, such as “After all”, “Tough skin, Juicy heart”, “My proxy”. But the obvious difference between you and her that I felt was : your works sort of conveyed a sense of humour, self-exploration and happiness, Khalo Frida, anguish but there’s strength in there. How do you think about this?

Mmm… that’s very flattering, but I’m not sure if I deserve such a compliment. For the last ten years, different friends of mine have been giving me Frida-related goods – a calendar, a refrigerator magnet, a case of lip cream. At first, I didn’t bother looking up who she was. I don’t know anything at all about art history – I only knew that she had a uni-brow.

I like the way Frida drew herself again and again, and she didn’t try to make herself look too good. She seems honest, but sad.

Most of my drawings aren’t sad at all. I draw when I’m happy, sad and frustrated – when i start drawing and colouring, i gradually become happy and i forget why i was sad or mad about. My best drawings are when I’m frustrated.

*There’s some sort of “surreal ambience” in your works: your own portrait with chicken feet and head, breasts sewn upon boy’s eyes, exposed brain, organs….even the girl could tunnel through giraffe’s ears to catch the heart. It seemed like you created a dreamland or you dived into subconscious field ,which sort of echoed the surrealists’ ethos. Do you agree with it? How do you feel about surrealists?

I don’t really know much about art history, so I can’t really say what category my drawings will fit in. I’m not interested in categorizing my drawings.

when an image pops into my mind, i simply place it onto a sheet of paper. i don’t plan out the composition or colours to use. i get excited about the image and just start drawing and keep colouring until i am satisfied. sometimes i’m surprised by what i end up drawing, because i’ll start drawing without knowing how i’m going to finish.

i’m just playful and enjoy creating images on paper.

My favorite artist is Rene Magritte. I like the sentimental sadness that he creates in his world.

* Having given birth to a baby should be a very special experience for you, and we did share it through your art. But, could you tell us what this experience really changed or affected you?

while i was pregnant, i was using vivid colours. after giving birth, i have gone back to pastel and soft tones. it wasn’t a conscious choice – funny how things work.

it was an amazing experience to be able to feel a new life growing inside of me during my pregnancy. i felt my body transforming every day. your body changes every day whether you’re pregnant or not, but I never felt a physical transformation this intimate taking place in such a predictable way. everything seems to happen according to the schedule, it’s very organized.

the changes that I’m seeing in my body is as same as other pregnant women around the world. our bodies are programmed to work this way. our “organs” work mechanically, like human machinery. this is the kind of “natural” life that appeals to me.

now i watch my baby changing everyday – learning and absorbing everything he can. human-beings are beautiful.

having experienced a birth of life was so powerful that i can’t stop thinking about the death comes with it. everything ends. happiness doesn’t last forever. when there’s a happiness, i like to be there 100%. when there’s none, i’d like to make one.

my interview with design enterprise :: voices

design enterprise voices
(click the image to go to designenterprise.com)

i was interviewed by a malaysian design website called design enterprise. they contacted me back in june, but i had just given birth at the time so it took me awhile to finish answering their detailed questions (33 questions!). it’s good that people ask me a lot of questions because i’m not good at explaining what i do. i tend to avoid talking about it. when people ask me some questions and give me a deadline, it forces me to think about it.

they asked to use photos from my blog. i told them to use whatever images that they would like. i like how they chose images that match colour-wise and composition-wise. i like stylish design people.

anyway, here are my answers ::

DE: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Y : I was born in japan. I currently live in saskatoon, canada. I like drawing and that’s what I do.

DE : Who has been most influential in your progress as an Artist?
Y : Whoever makes me really mad. I don’t really know what is meant by “influence” in this kind of question. I don’t think about what other people are doing, and I don’t really know much about art history or theory. I draw for myself. When someone makes me mad, I draw more.

DE : When did you first think to become an artist?
Y : I’m still not sure… I’ve always had the same mindset about doing what I want to do, because I want to do it. I’ve been drawing off and on since I was a child, but I only started drawing seriously about 3 years ago. My technique has changed a lot, but my ideas are the same.

DE : What would you like to convey through your drawing? What do you want people to feel?
Y : I’m not trying to send a message. I don’t know how people will react to my work. For me, my drawings have contradictions and mixed emotions, so I can’t say anything clear about them. Maybe some people will just want to take a cold shower after looking at my drawings.

DE : What material or tools do you use for your drawings? Do you intend to experiment with other materials or tools in the near future?
Y : I like to use colour pencils, because they are adorable. Anybody can use them if they want to try. At the same time, there are so many things you can do with just pencils – so many possibilities in pencils. Colouring with colour pencils, you have to start with light colours and add in the darkness. That’s the direction i like.

DE : How long is the duration needed for you to produce an artwork from scratch?
Y : It takes me longer when I do more colouring. It only takes me a couple minutes to do the drawing as outlines. Some of my bigger drawings took just a couple hours, some took a few days.

DE : Any kinds of new style are you going to try?
Y : I try to stick with a nonchalant style – accidental drawings. When I try too hard, my drawings are not my best. When a random image comes to mind and i enjoy drawing it, the result is very good. I think because I’m just enjoying the experience of drawing and not trying to come up with a specific result. The more you draw, the easier it is to get trapped in the “working too hard” mode.

DE : Do you sell the printable version or original artwork of yours?
Y : I started selling my work at street fairs and art festivals when i came to Saskatoon. I also opened an online shop in 2006. People from around the world can come to my online shop and buy my prints, original drawings, postcards, and useless toys.

DE : Where do you get your inspiration from?
Y : Images appear in my mind whenever I’m sad, mad, happy, hurt, or sentimental – which happens a lot. I don’t have any tricks to come up with ideas. I spend most of my time lost in my own mind. Ideas just come to me as I’m going through my daily life, even though I can’t see the connection between what I’m doing and those images. As soon as I get an image, I try to draw it right away. I don’t think much about what it means. I just start drawing, paying attention to my technique, the colours, and the facial expressions. What you see in my drawings is what I’ve got in my mind.

DE : Mind to share with us the work that you are most proud of?
Y : It’s a drawing called “my secret elephant”. I wanted to draw the girl’s face looking so peaceful, and it came out exactly how I had it in mind. I love her expression.

DE : Do you involve in any form of collaboration with other designer or artist? If yes, what is it?
Y : No. I’m not good at working with other people.

DE : How long did it take for you to develop your own style? How does it begin?
Y : I didn’t have an “ideal style” in mind when I started drawing. From the beginning, I never drew backgrounds, because I thought they would interfere with the focus on the main figures in my drawing. When you look at someone you really love, you don’t notice the background, anyway.

DE : From your point of view, what is the difference between Japanese design from any other country in the East?
Y : I’m not sure.

DE : Which is your next Asian country’s design you would like to pay more attention?
Y : I don’t know.

DE : Have you come across any talented and bright artist that we should pay attention on him/her?
Y : I like eric bostrom’s work. He has a website : http://diversionmary.com. He uses ballpoint pens like magic – very very beautiful.

DE : What is art to you?
Y : Art is like being a farmer. I’m farming my brain and my heart and my hand to grow something. After that, it’s up to other people to cook it in different recipes and digest it for themselves.

DE : Does your work as an artist affects your lifestyle? How?
Y : It means i can stay at home with my baby and still do the work i want to do.

DE : Are you working on anything special right now?
Y : I’m working on drawings for a group show in portland, oregon.

DE : Are you satisfied with your current achievement?
Y : I don’t know. I like most of my drawings, and I want to keep drawing. I don’t know how I’ll change what I’m doing. New people keep discovering my work online, and whenever I show in a new location. Some of them email me and say my drawings made their day. I think that’s my achievement and I’m very happy about it. I want to show my work to as many people as possible.

DE : What is the biggest satisfaction for an artist?
Y : When people look right into my eyes and tell me how much they love my drawings.

DE : What is your new experience of lives since you have a newcomer?
Y : You mean the baby? Life has been super-terrific with my baby. Everything about it is new for me and everything is interesting, even when I’m tired or it’s difficult.

DE : What is your life purpose?
Y : To become a good person. I mean a really good person, not just nice.

DE : What would be a special treat for you?
Y : Going back to japan with my family.

DE : What is your viewpoint on relationship?
Y : I don’t have a viewpoint. I do believe in love at first sight, because it happened to me.

DE : Are you’re a right-handed or left-handed person? Does it affect your creativity?
Y : I’m right-handed. I wish I had a middle arm. My creativity would be more balanced.

DE : Are you coffee lover or tea lover?
Y : I drink water or milk.

DE : Which country you would like to visit? Why?
Y : I’ve always wanted to go to Italy. I’m saving all my pennies to go there.

DE : How can you make the world a better place to live?
Y : I wish I knew how to answer this.

DE : What cant you live without?
Y : Paul – my husband.

DE : What is your favorite day of the week? Why?
Y : Tuesday – It’s an underrated day…

DE : What books or magazines do you normally read? Why?
Y : I like non fiction. I don’t usually pay attention to reality, so I’m always surprised to find out the truth about something.

DE : From the elements, which are Sky, Tree, River, Sea, Cloud, Mountain and Wing, which best describes you? Why?
Y : I’m a cloud, because I keep changing my mind.

DE : Word of advice to all the artists and designers out there?
Y : Don’t listen to anyone’s advice. Just do what you want.

the beauty of grotesque (planet S review)

planets440.jpg

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

YAMAGUCHI’S WORK BLURS LINE BETWEEN HUMOUR, HORROR
by Bart Gazzola

PERSONAL :: POLITICAL
YUKA YAMAGUCHI, DAVE GEARY
MENDEL ART GALLERY
RUNS TO SUNDAY 3

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 (www.plastiquemonkey.com) 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.

milk magazine (hong kong)

there is an interview with me in a new issue of milk magazine, from hong kong. apparently, the editor came to my blog and liked it, so i was contacted about showing my drawings in the magazine. it happened very fast — once i said yes it only took a week before the issue was published with my drawings in it. they mailed me several copies from hong kong, and i just got them.

milk magazine is a weekly magazine about fashion, music, design, culture, entertainment, trends etc. the writer who contacted me said their audience is mostly 18 – 35 years old. the graphic design work is stylish and the content is interesting. i can’t read chinese, but i could decipher some of the chinese characters that are also used in japanese.

for this issue, they featured 12 of my drawings including “new heartbeat”, “my secret elephant”, and “all i can see” — in eight pages in colour! they were kind enough to let me choose which drawings i wanted to show.



click images to enlarge (slideshow)

the last page of the article is the interview. the writer interviewed me by email, in english. he asked about my bio and for some stories related to my drawings. i can’t read the chinese version of the interview, but i guess it’s a literal translation with some editing. this is how the interview went:

were you born in japan? where were you born?

i was born in kobe, japan.

did you go to high school in japan or overseas?

i graduated high school and university in japan. i have a degree in social work.

did you study at any art schools in japan or overseas? what is the name of the school?

i’ve never taken any art classes. i’m self-taught. i like to teach myself how to draw by drawing. i’m not interested in art theory or history. i don’t like to think about what i do in that way. so i’m glad i never went to art school.

when did you move to saskatchewan? how long have you benn living in saskatchewan?

i’ve been living in saskatoon, SK since summer 2005. i moved to canada back in 2000, though. i’ve also lived in winnipeg, manitoba and kingston, ontario.

why did you move to saskatchewan?

my husband got a job here, so we moved. i like living on the flat, flat prairie. when i stand in a big prairie field, i really feel like i’m standing on the earth. i especially like to listen to spacious electronic music (like microhouse) while driving under the vast prairie sky, surrounded only by sound and atmosphere. it feels good.

when did you start drawing?

i started drawing when i was three or so. my grandma would give me some paper to draw on, and i just loved it. i used to draw in my notebooks now and then, but i started drawing more seriously in 2004. that was the first year that i showed my work in public. now i show my work on my blog (www.plastiquemonkey.com) and at gallery shows and street fairs. i like seeing how people react to my drawings. it’s amusing.

what kind of art do you like?

i like art that makes me want to touch it and get inside its world. i tend to like photography and film more than painting or drawing. i don’t pay much attention to what’s going on in the art world, or what kind of work other people are doing. i know what i like, but i can’t explain what it is.

what is your inspiration of your drawing?

images appear in my mind whenever i’m sad, mad, happy hurt, or sentimental – which happens a lot. i don’t have any tricks to come up with ideas. i spend most of my time lost in my own mind. ideas just come to me as i’m going through my daily life, even though i can’t see the connection between what i’m doing and those images. as soon as i get an image, i try to draw it right away. i don’t think much about what it means. i just start drawing, paying attention to my technique, the colours, and the facial expressions. what you see in my drawings is what i’ve got in my mind.

when did you start to sell your drawings – prints/ originals?

i started selling my work at street fairs and art festivals when i came to saskatoon. i also opened an online shop in 2006. people from around the world can come to my online shop and buy my prints, original drawings, postcards, and useless toys. it was quite a bit of work to set up, but it’s great – i enjoy sending my work to foreign addresses where i’d like to visit someday, and imagining my drawings hanging on someone’s wall. at the same time, i really enjoy showing and selling my work at street festivals. i find it more stimulating than showing my work in an art gallery, because i can see the reactions right on the spot. i get such a nice response from all sorts of people on the street, not just the types who go to art galleries. i prefer people to come across my work in their daily lives, including online, not just in a gallery where they go specifically to look at “art”. i get more natural responses on the street – if people don’t like it, they’ll tell me. i think that’s great. it just makes me want to draw more and better.

do you have any new plan from now on?

i’m always trying to improve my technique so i can realize the images in my mind more precisely. at the same time, i don’t want to forget that better technique doesn’t mean better work. in the end, i’m doing this for my own enjoyment. i’m going to keep on drawing images that make me laugh.

can you tell me which is your most favorite work? and the reason why?

it’s hard to choose. it depends on my mood. right now my favorite drawing is called “new heartbeat”. i drew it after i found out i was pregnant for the first time. i went to the doctor and listened to the baby’s heartbeat on the monitor. it was still so early in the pregnancy that i couldn’t tell anyone except my husband. but i just had to do that drawing, because it was living inside of me.

the writer showed my favorite drawing, “new heartbeat”, on a full page and sent me a proof of the article as a souvenir. he was very thoughtful from start to finish.

since this article appeared i’ve noticed more and more visitors from hong kong, and people have been contacting me to say hello. thanks for stopping by!

in the sheaf (article about me)


(click to enlarge — full article PDF below)

a couple weeks ago, i was interviewed by felicia chen, a writer for the sheaf, the university of saskatchewan student newspaper. she came over to my apartment. this was only my second time being interviewed so i was still nervous, but she was very friendly.

the interview lasted for three hours. even though it was a long interview, surprisingly it wasn’t long enough to cover everything i wanted to say, partly because my answers tend to be meandering. it’s hard for me to talk about what i do, and especially hard in english if i’m a bit nervous. i get really excited and i can’t put my thoughts together. when that happens, people who know me can understand what i mean but for someone i just met i’m probably confusing. :D

after the interview, i felt i hadn’t explained my thoughts clearly enough. so i wrote my answers to her questions and some additional information and sent her an email. it was a good exercise for me. a lot of the questions were about my artwork. i don’t like to talk about “ART” in general and i have a hard time explaining what i’m doing. so i thought about it for a long time and wrote a really long email. felicia was very nice and read the whole thing and some of my ideas showed up in this article.

i’m very happy with this article in the end. it’s really good at showing my floating thoughts. like i keep saying, my mind is everywhere.

you can read the article about me and see the whole newspaper (PDF) at the sheaf website. there’s no way to link directly to the article yet, so i’ve uploaded the two pages here. you can open them in PDF and read the small newspaper text. there are 2 files to open, one per page.

page:1 page:2

see also: the first newspaper article about me, from the saskatoon star-phoenix (july 1st)

happy canada day! (star-phoenix article)


five years ago, on canada day, i got engaged. we were watching the fireworks when paul asked me. one year ago, on canada day, we moved to saskatoon. we could see the fireworks from the highway driving in at night.

today, on canada day, there’s an article about me in the saskatoon star-phoenix! paul took my photo (you can almost see him reflected in the shiny desk lamp).

i was interviewed by steven ross smith back in april. he came to my apartment. the interview was supposed to take 90 minutes but we ended up talking for three hours. i’m not very good at talking about myself, expecially to someone i don’t really know, but it was fun talking to him. he was very pleasant.

he asked me a lot of questions about what kind of work i do. he also asked me what kind of artist i am. i didn’t really know what to say. i mostly just do things to amuse myself. i don’t have a particular concept that i’m trying to achieve. i just work on my technique, especially for drawing. i really don’t know what kind of artist i am. i’m not even sure that’s important. so it’s hard for me to answer questions like that.

the photo caption says “yuka yamaguchi is a conceptual artist, blogger, and new media artist”. i mostly use colour pencils and paper, so i thought i was old school. but i guess i do use a digital camera…

the interviewer seemed to think this entire website is art. he even thought the giant pink grapefruit jello i made was an art project. that’s quite flattering, but honestly, it was just me wanting to fulfill a lifetime dream: to make a giant pink jello. maybe it is art, i don’t know, but i didn’t intend it to be art, just fun. in the end, it was jello — high-fibre jello. it really was a lot of work to eat it all.

overall, i’m very happy with the article. i think the interviewer tried very hard to understand me — it’s not his fault that my ideas aren’t very clear. i’m also proud to be in a canadian newspaper as an immigrant from japan on canada day. i like meeting other immigrants here: today i had coffee with a couple from iran. we talked about iran and japan and canada, and many different soccer games, including the thrilling england-portugal penalty kicks today. another nice canada day.