Yukako Sakakura graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 2008. Her captivating drawings and videos were shown in Harrogate later that year. Now working from her studio near Tokyo, her delicate paintings and drawings combine both abstract and figurative elements, creating a beautiful, curious and intimate sense of time and place. Her first solo exhibition was held at 108 Fine Art in March 2011. Yukako’s 2012 Harrogate exhibition was reviewed well by Jackie Wullschlager in the Financial Times ‘Critics Choice’, and has featured in Vogue and BBC ‘In Pictures’
Someday You Will Repel Our Colours
Acrylic on canvas, 2016
72.7 x 100 cm
We might have just wanted to leave a mark of our life
Link to Yukako’s favourite classic Japanese paintings which she visits before starting each new work.
Over the last few years I have been concerned about the issue of nuclear power, and my thoughts on this have had a lasting influence on my work. Although I don’t want to focus exclusively on the Fukushima nuclear disaster, seeing the results of this particular accident – the repercussions of which are still felt to this day – was painful enough for me to question and rethink humanity’s ambition to control the natural world. My new series of paintings “We Can Be the Best Fixer”, is ironically titled; referring to our optimistic but potentially damaging wishes to modify the natural world to suit our own demands. I have tried to create a sense of allegory, which tells of the cognitive dissonance caused by attempting to maintain a balance between conventional morality, and our drive towards power and technological development. As the small figure travels through the series of paintings, her various acts and poses reveal the way in which she either adopts or rejects ideologies and emotional perspectives in relation to different societal modernisations and advancements. As with my previous series, the titles themselves function as an integral part of each image: acting as the voice of the small figure, in order to reveal humanity’s internal struggle.
The first part of this series – works made in 2015 – shows a story of what I call “Awkward Positivism”, generated from the often unsound arguments we make concerning the nature of our unstoppable drive towards technological development in modern life. I have attempted to contrast a sense of visual sentimentality with confident, self-assured sounding titles; as well as using bold colours and simple marks to imply an idea of pure spontaneity that one might associate with a child drawing.
The small figure adopts assertive poses; the way in which she pushes back peeled off flowers while holding fake, bubble-looking leaves, revealing her need to control the world around her. The deliberately bold, simple marks add to the story, indicating that humanity’s ideological visions of the natural world can be easily modified: redrawn depending on our demands and wishes, like a child doodling in a book. At the same time, the complete flatness of the painted marks reveal that we are changing only the surface of the natural world; not managing to utterly control and tame nature as a whole.
Stop doodling on this world. Since 2016, I’ve started work on the second part of this series, with the “Distortion” of the first part – “Awkward Positivism” – becoming the main theme. As history shows, our arrogant striving towards power can’t last forever – and ironically, the resultant set-backs have the potential to last much longer than the period in which we misused our power and advancement. In this series of paintings, the colours and visual references become quieter – more fragile – as if previewing the weakness of our ideological world. As can be seen in the painting titled “How Many Arrows Should We Make For A Better Life?”, there are many arrows lifting up flowers and moving them in a certain direction. These hidden arrows represent the desire of many people to visualise the world as ideal and beautiful, even if this desire is based on fabrication and wish-fulfillment. In the work titled “Still Gears Are Out Of Our Composition”, the simply painted, pink flowers with fresh green leaves against the backdrop of a blue sky remind us of the visuals of the “Awkward Positivism” paintings. The bold, bright flowers in this piece are overlaid in a fragmented manner atop a dull, cloudy space with quiet, almost monochromatic flowers. These partially obscured, quieter flowers – which suggest the idea of gears from the painting’s title – look particularly weak and insubstantial beneath the superimposed bright blue sky that dominates the picture plane. This contrasted composition shows the balance of two worlds – the real and the imagined – with the quiet flowers representative of the more realistic, questioning part of our natures, which has the potential to be much stronger than the ideological reality we create in order to comfort ourselves.
As we are all aware, it’s hard to blame people for questing for a better life, even if the result of this quest will actually sacrifice everyone’s quality of life in the end. Deep down, most people are aware of the danger to our own future this poses – though no one seems able to offer concrete answers as to a workable balance between our morality and ambitions. This is why I love to show this struggle through my work, as I believe this very human conflict reveals life as it really is, rather than sending only one solid message to viewers.