Encounter with the light
I suddenly encountered light in 1993, but before that, in my late twenties, I was named Super Juvenile, and Homei Tohno recommended me and took me up on the idea with bold, gorgeous, and generous works of colors. While being blessed with many opportunities to showcase my work, I began to feel a sense of discomfort between myself and my artwork. As a result of rigorous self-examination and analysis, I found that my works were based on my education and study and common sense. I realized that this is why I am not able to pursue art and delve deeper into the art world. This is a work that will walk with me through my own life. I knew that if I did not encounter the work that I was meant to do in this life, if I did not search for it, there would be no meaning to my life and no meaning to my artwork. And so I wandered and searched.
These were dark times. As has been my habit since childhood, I put a note in my studio that read, "Be patient, endure, and wait for your heart to grow." I waited for 10 years while looking at it. Early in those 10 years, I had a sudden encounter with light. Until then, I had thought that I alone had to take full responsibility for my work, but I learned that the way I existed was surrounded by others and that I was living within a relational context. I can best demonstrate and develop myself by thinking about where to place my point of reference on the three-dimensional vector of the coordinate axis of myself, my works, and society. I have realized that thinking in this way is the way I am suited for reflection.
Installation view of the exhibition at Art Front 2022.9.2-25
The experience at Angkor Wat was the catalyst for the creation of Lumière
I came across the light early on, but it took me a long time to shape it. It was a constant process of trial and error. I visited Angkor Wat in 1998, I think. To get to the third corridor on the top floor of Angkor Wat, you have to climb a dangerous stone staircase with a tread width of 10 cm and a height of 30 cm. We arrived there in a cold sweat and found ourselves in a dream world of spacious landscapes with cool breezes.
There are shallow reliefs on the walls of the corridor, which seem to move suddenly when the light shines through the clouds. This happened many times. The light coming through the parapet opposite the reliefs was very unusual, and the light and the shallow reliefs made things that did not move appear to move. I think that by creating the shallow reliefs, the changes in the light were well picked up and it looked like an animation. In the first corridor downstairs, there are reliefs carved with the story of the Ramayana, one of the sacred texts of Hinduism, and a climactic scene from the story of the stirring of the milk sea. They must have appeared to move in the same way. It is said that Angkor Wat was built on Mount Sumeru. I thought that the ancient kings were trying to create a paradise with magnificent nature and creations. I think I saw that light because I was in the habit of picking up delicate light on a regular basis, and since my encounter with light in 1993, my experience at Angkor Wat and then seven years later at the temple in Ohara, Kyoto, I became convinced about light and this series began.
Lumière／emboss and cut out on the paper ／each 2200×1000
Words of Professor Lee Ufan changed my whole career
One of my strongest memories of Professor Lee is from a seminar after the summer break of my first year in the Tama Art Graduate School. When Professor Lee asked what kind of summer holiday everyone had spent, everyone talked about their cool experiences abroad, such as going to New York or London, but all I could talk about was how I was having trouble with my work. I was in tears as I was talking about how I love making art and I make a lot of it, but I can't think straight. Then the professor said, "Let's go to your studio" and we all went there. The teacher looked at my 40 or so pieces of work and said with a smile, "These are the panels, you have paper on the panels, you have painted over them, how are the panels made?" He said with a smile, "This is the panel, the paper is stuck on the panel, and you put paint on it. That was the first time I realised that I had to think about things in terms of their origins. With just those words, I was able to enjoy making things again. I had loved sewing, cooking and making things since I was a child. I am sure she doesn't remember it, but it is an important lesson for me.
I have been working on this for 12 years. When I was making the "lumière", there happened to be a plastic board on the other side of the paper, which reflected and looked like a mirror. Also, there is a forest in front of my house and when the trees sway in the wind, I can see the sky flickering between them. I turned these images into a work of art. I wondered how I would put them in the acrylic mirror and how I would glue them together. Unlike when I was young, I am deeply afraid of glue... I went to a very skilled printer in Paris and made a prototype, but the finished product was too industrial and didn't have the fullness of fine art. That too was aborted. Mirage was reachable but not graspable. I thought the name Mirage was a bad name. I really wanted everyone to see it in this exhibition, so I gave it shape by force. When you stare at it, you can see a faint reflection of yourself.
Mirage 2022／pastel, cutout and acrylic mirror on paper ／545×620mm photo by Hideto Nagatsuka
When I was in my 40s, I had a heart problem, which was a very rare disease and the doctors in the countryside didn't have enough knowledge about it. I was in a lot of pain, so I consulted a doctor friend in Tokyo, who examined me and I was admitted to hospital for immediate surgery. I was also on the brink of death in the intensive care unit, watching as people who were lying next to me died one after the other and were replaced. I learnt that the end of life is a very simple thing. All you have to do is quietly open the sliding door and go to the other side of the room, that's how it feels. Since I was a student, I thought that the real pleasure of doing art was to be involved with 'life' and 'death' and the meaning of life, but I could not go into it because I just wandered around the periphery, and only then did I realise. It was then that this form was born. This is what it means to be alive, I thought. Each lens is like a sense of touch, like air flowing between the cells.
The production process is very complex. A prototype is made, FRP is stretched over it, and when it has hardened, the prototype inside is taken out. The prototype is then laminated and glued together. The lens is hollowed out with a jigsaw to fit the lens. Well, it's a long process and there are trade secrets, so I'll leave it at that. The reason we use leather is because we are making the figure of a living creature. At first I used Japanese cow leather, but it turned out like marble chocolate, something different. I was able to get these leathers of quality, such as horse leather (brown) and goat leather (blue), because Monsieur, the gallery in Paris, told me to go to the Hermès flagship shop nearby to see what kind of leather he liked. As expected, there is a beautiful range of leather goods. There is a Hermès leather wholesaler in the centre of Paris, which Monsieur and I visited, where I made my choice and paid the bill. That's where Monsieur comes in. He always makes me lose. He is indeed an art dealer. These works are selling very well in France.
"Bright cells" / FRP, mirror, lens, leather / 2022
"Holy grail of light'
In 1993, a glass shop gave me a mirror that they were going to throw away, and I piled it up at the edge of my studio for no particular purpose. One day I looked up and saw that my studio was covered with a shower of beautiful light particles. It was an unexperienced space that made me think I was dead or in the afterlife. I had been looking down and making my work for days, so I was surely unaware of it. That's why I decided to give it shape. Sunlight is round, so the reflected light is round. From a large piece of mirror, the reflected light is firm and strong. The smaller pieces reflect a weaker light. The support is made of 1 mm aluminium, hardened and forged. A 2 mm mirror is pasted on top of it. Joints are filled with plaster. The base is a keiyaki gouge. Lighting. The type of light source is important.
"Holy Grail of the light" / aluminum, mirror, Japanese zelkova for pedestal / 345×1000×1000／2022
I put a concave Fresnel lens with mirror plating on a window sill and a goofy imaginary image floated up. I casually placed a bottle of whisky in the middle, and an amber-coloured false image floated up. I thought this was interesting, so I replaced the whisky bottle with a polyester resin moulding and put the light shining from above into the box, so that the imaginary image floated.
"Lumirror grand" / polyester resin, Fresnel lens, lead sheet, wood, fluorescent lamp 4W / 280 x 450 x 460 each / 1999
"Drip of the moon"
Forged and constructed from copper, silver-plated and then coated with lacquer. Originally, I was asked by Mr T of your company, "Mr Uchikura, why don't you do metal? But after a few trial-and-error attempts, the material became my own, and I felt confident that I could get on well with it. A spider's web is full of cobwebs near dawn in summer. We are attracted to the beauty of the night dew that glistens when it is a little brighter, and we forget ourselves. Such experiences of self-detachment are very important. In our daily lives, we are bound and bothered by many things. Actually, I think that the moment of self-forgetfulness is when we meet our soul. At first, when you look at my work, you may think that it is too beautiful or that it is not interior design. I have been told that something too beautiful is not a work of art, but as for me, I always want to create something beautiful.
Drip of the moon / copper, silver cast, lacquer, 2020
metal work inspired by the drip of the early morning with spider's web
Actually, when I was making 'Lumière', I made an ugly hole in it when I was working on it with a restless mind. I was sorry to reject it, so I cut it with scissors and this is what I came up with. The workmanship of the support is designed so that it cannot be seen from the front. When we delivered 170 rooms to the Hotel Okura, the framer made 'delivery boxes' for transport and we delivered them several times. People who can work hard together are important friends.
When a doctor from an osteopathic clinic in Nasu stayed at the Hotel Okura, he was surprised to see a fascinating work of art signed 'Hitomi Uchikura' and said to the room attendant, "This is my patient". She couldn't sleep that day (laughs).
"étude" / wood panel, emboss and cutout on paper / 280×280×35 / 2020
"Conte de lumière"
I created this work during a stay in Arles sur Tech (a village in the Pyrenees) on the border between France and Spain. The village hall was flying the EU flag, the French flag and the Catalan flag. It was also a pilgrimage stop for Santiago de Compostela, and there was a church from the 6th century. Then there was a fort that fought against France and Spain, and it was a lovely village with a mixture of traces of the times. And of course the people. Anyway, the light was beautiful. I don't know if it's a multiple or a publication somewhere, but I hope to be able to give it a form. This work is not for sale.
"Conte de lumière" / paper, punch, veneer / 258×417×300／2012 photo by Hideto Nagatsuka
Just as music enjoys sound, and literature appeals to images through the layering of text, I want to make things that are a pleasure to look at.
(photo by Hiroshi Noguchi, unless otherwise indicated)