Hello! You’re originally from Tokyo, but have been living Germany for the last ten years, and just graduated from the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig. Can you tell me a bit more about yourself?
I grew up in Japan: In Tokyo, Osaka, Yamanashi – many different cities, because of my father’s job. Since 2006, I live and work in Leipzig, Germany.
Before that, I studied Japanese Painting at Musashino Art University in Tokyo. My faculty was very traditional and, for me, a bit too conservative, so I didn’t quite match the course. When I got my degree at the University, I considered continuing with the Master Class but my Professor told me that I should go to USA or Europe.
I visited many Art Universities in Germany, France & Holland, until I decided on the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig, because I could study both traditional oil painting with tempera technique and also contemporary art there. I really wanted to progress and develop my own painting.
In 2015 I graduated from the Master Class (“Meisterschüler”) under Prof. Annette Schröter. In Germany, I changed my medium from Japanese stone colors to traditional oil colours and tempera paint.
What first interested you in making art?
When I was a child my mother praised me, when I drew a rabbit. This memory stayed with me for a long time and drove me to keep on drawing & painting.
Your paintings are somewhat abstracted but mostly seem to suggest landscapes in brilliant hues. Can you describe your work and what ideas you’re exploring in your compositions?
The first and second years in Germany were a quite hard and painful experience for me. I couldn’t speak any German at first and I didn’t understand a lot of things at the Art University. My Japanese friend then sent me a poem titled ‘Lake’. This poem, in a way, saved me.
I didn’t know what to paint, but this ‘Lake’ started to appear in my paintings. It was symbolic for me: lakes, forests, mountains, holes: I feel like I don’t paint a landscape, but rather “dig a hole” when I paint.
When I observe a landscape, I am fascinated by the layers of the past: earth, colour, and traces of the people who were once there. I try to imagine how the first or last person perceived this landscape. When two people see a landscape, what they see is never the same: I try to find these differences and deviations, and then fill the created gaps.
Are these real places?
Not really: Most places come, partially, from my imagination, but I got a lot of inspirations from different places I have visited: Yosemite National Park, Isle of Skye in Scotland, Lofoten in Norway, the jungle in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Japan.
I notice that you work often in shades of teal and pink; is there a reason you’re drawn to these particular colors?
I like turquoise green, because it’s neither warm nor cold; it’s a neutral color to me.
Pink, for me, is a rather new color on my palette — I painted ‘Last Mountain’ with a black sky as a night landscape, which didn’t quite work at first. When I painted over the sky with pink, it somehow worked even better as a night sky, so recently I have been using more pink.
What is the thing that intrigues you or challenges you the most about your medium?
I used Japanese pigments earlier, but now I love tempera and oil, because I can use many layers: thin and thick, and paint them fresh on top of each other. Oil painting gives me many possibilities and lets me construct many different things in my paintings.
What kind of research do you do in preparation for your paintings?
I often draw what I think about. I also like to draw outside and when I travel; I sometimes use my sketchbook to record what I see.
What is your studio like?
It is nice and quiet in Leipzig, I like that I am alone there. It’s rather silent and bright.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that help you get in to the mode to create?
I always drink coffee while inspecting my paintings in progress and thinking about what to paint today.
Especially as a recent graduate , what do you think about most when it comes to pursuing an art practice professionally? What is the most challenging or daunting part about pursuing this path?
I have actually been working together with my Gallery (Tomio Koyama Gallery in Tokyo) for 6 years.
I think it’s very important to stay curious and to continue to develop and redefine myself, artistically.
Can you recall the best advice you’ve received so far?
Stay true to yourself.
What do you need most, or value most, as an artist?
What are you working on right now?
As I walked through the Malaysian jungle last year, I came across places in the thicket that have been unaffected by people for a long time. There was a sense of loss and rebirth; this was both beautiful and eerie at the same time. I was then increasingly occupied by the repetition of forms as the infinite reflection of the part of a whole: these fractal structures were first found in the jungle of Malaysia, and then subsequently in my paintings.
Anything else you would like to add?
Right now, I have a solo show in Berlin, at the Gallery Martin Mertens, if you happen to be in Berlin, please come by (on through June 17).
Find more at yukakashihara.com and on Instagram @yukakashihara!
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