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Three works for Venice Biennale 2011:  

“Ise” – “Tsuyama” – “Tsumekizaki”



I came back to Japan in January 2011 and returned to Paris on 11 February, just one month before the 3.11.2011, Tohoku earthquake and the following Fukushima Nuclear disaster. After the tragedies, I have felt the distance between me and Japan diminished, Japan was closer to me than ever before.

 This is the reason why I had chosen to present these works, Ise -Tsuyama-Tsumekizaki, inspired by my 2011 Japan trip on the Venice biennale. Furthermore, I decided to make all works in Venice, and I could even paint my exhibition room at the Palazzo Bembo. Therefor I went to Venice in April, three weeks before the opening of the biennale, where I had the inimitable opportunity to create those “Japan” works in the exhibition room in  “Venice”.  



About “Ise” :

 It was my first visit to Ise-Jingu. I felt Ise was certainly an exceptional place in Japan.There is a dense forest of Japanese cypress (hinoki), covering 5500 hectares, which is comparable to the size of Paris. Because of enormous scale of the secret land, I felt completely disconnected from the present and I could imagine how the ancient time was. In fact, a shrine complex composed of a large number of Shinto shrines is centered on two main shrines. I learned that Jingu is rebuilt every 20 years with exactly the same form and proportions on a plot next to the old one, to remind us of eternity and to continue this cycle that exists since a long time. I was fascinated to look at two spaces, one full and another space with a small symbol, the one situated in the present and the other in the future.

 The simplicity of the architecture was astonishing; the builders used unpainted cypress wood in ancient Japanese style. I was deeply moved by this dynamic simplicity and got a strong emotional impact from the uncolored pillars, it felt as if the wood was still alive. Standing on the land where huge size trees are growing, that are more than 300 years old. I could experience a passage of time between the trees, and I felt encounter the extended history of Japan. 


I made this triptych work, because I wanted to create an atmosphere, which contains many different substances of this dense forest. About color, from “Red to Pink”: red is the expression of the high emotion, the strong tactile experiences made by hands and feet while encountering the passage of the time.  I used pink in the way I normally use white, to express stillness, peacefulness, and tranquillity. By using pink, I wanted to create subtlety of sensibility, in the same manner that light does. Also, I craved to find the roundabout expression; the modest behaviour of Japanese, which can find its equivalent in the very nuanced colour of pink. But at the same time, I wanted to show that we are having a strong inner part, for this reason red can be still seen under the layers of pink.





About “Tsuyama” :

 Tsuyama is my parent’s hometown in Okayama, the place where I was born. Every time I return to Japan, I get back to this town to recall my sense of self-identity. Tsuyama is my roots, and they are always there. It has not much changed since I was small, even the smell is the same. There are a lot of mountains and clean creeks, rice fields and farms. By being outside of Japan, my emotions towards Tsuyama increases. This place is the base of my representation of Japan.


In the past, I had made works called “Tsuyama” from time to time. Tsuyama is my life work.  About color: “Orange-Yellow” which is present warmness and light that we receive from the sun, positive atmosphere, energy.



About “Tsumekizaki”:

 Tsumekizaki is located on the coast of Suzaki in the southern Izu Peninsula, about 150km to southwest from Tokyo. It was the first time I saw the columnar joints produced by wave erosion, I could fee thousands of years history from it. The hexagonal pattern’s rocks fascinated me. From the distance it looked like turtles, the natural process amazed me. I went to Izu Peninsula with my parents, which is their favourite place. The wild white Narcissus and red flowers of Aloe were wavering in the strong wind. It was a beautiful contrast between the vivacity of the flowers and the rough nature of columnar joints. We walked along the cost for quite long way.  


I made two panels of different size for “Tsumekizaki”, as metaphor of my parents. It will stay as my last journey with them. About color: “Deep blue and light blue” which is present the continuousness, freshness, earth and wild nature.



The connection with nature is significantly important to me and to my work.  Nature is not something to be governed nor regulated by us, but it is something coexisting with us. Nature is strong, we cannot control it and we have to respect it. I still believe that Japan is a beautiful island, even though we are carrying a tragedy. But I should not forget that the world is connected. Traveling is part of my life and I would like to have a close contact with the nature in my daily life.



Yuko Sakurai, February 2013


This text was published in 2013 in the book

“Personal Structures Time Space Existence

ISBN 978-94-90784-13-3

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