Sep 12, 2011

PROFILE | Yuken Teruya | Finding Beauty in the Disposable

The artist was born in Okinawa, Japan in 1973. His birthplace is of great significance for the history, culture, the very landscape of his native island are foundational to his unique perspective.

Yuken Teruya, You-I, You-I, Linen and Color Pigment, 2002-2005

Okinawan culture and tradition are literally the fabric Teruya offers in his You-I, You-I. It is a lovely and lyrical piece, a kimono, that, in keeping with the tradition of his homeland communicates the history of his people and place. Created using centuries old bingata dying techniques, the kimono stays true to the tradition of communicating the history of his homeland.

But his Okinawa is not just the land of flowers and trees his forbearers depicted in their works, Teruya’s design incorporates the paratroopers and fighter planes that symbolize the domination of the island by American forces. The work evidences the gentle irony that infuses Teruya’s work, fighter planes fly with doves, fighting soldiers descend from the sky to land among delicate flowers and trees.

Those Okinawan trees are also the subject of the artist’s Corner Forest series. This piece also reflects the artists sense of irony in his transformation of the cheap and mundane (and you can’t get more mundane than an empty toilet paper roll!) to the ethereal and priceless. His craftsmanship is captivating; the viewer is easily lost in the fine intricacies of his details. He uses humble and unassuming objects in a way that’s very consistent with his quiet, self-effacing demeanor. Yet this shy, hesitant presence surprised me for its striking contrast to his confident and expressive art. The artist can be seen on You Tube explaining a recent work for an exhibition entitled, My Neighbor.

Yuken Teruya, Corner Forest, Toilet Paper Rolls

He takes trash to treasure in another series, Notice - Forest. With materials claimed from the recycling bin, Teruya communicates three dimensionally the ying and yang of consumerism and the natural world. He speaks with wisdom and reason, reminding us that what we would negligently toss away was once a precious tree. These works are described on Teruya’s website in this way:     
The artist cuts out shapes of tree branches and leaves on one side of disposable paper bags. Assembling a tree from the cut-out parts, there is a tree standing in a bag. However it seems like the bag is holding the fragile tree inside, it is the strength of the tree that is holding the bag up.  When you see it under the natural light, the delicate tree inside the paper bag shows us the strength and the proof of existence of living tree. The each tree has a model. They are the trees that the artist saw in his neighborhood or from where he has traveled. The each bag holds a portrait of a tree inside.
Teruya’s unique world view enlightens the viewer. It is thought-provoking work. In the Notice-Forest series the artist engages the viewer making you consider the beauty to be found in waste and the waste we’ve created from what was once beautiful. His work takes the mass produced objects of everyday back to their origins, he reclaims the beauty of their beginnings.

The use of paper products to represent trees relating it back to the raw materials used in their mass production. His intricate techniques and precious:
Toilet rolls sprouting and spreading branches are installed to a wall to create a forest. There is a moment when the cut-out branches and leaves start holding themselves up with their own strength. It is as if I am helping the paper awakens its ability to come to life.
By creating connections between the organic form of the fragile chrysalis and artificial products the artist brings up the questions of the relationship of two complete different set of values and meaning of existence.

-Victoria Eastman

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