2 OCTOBER - 23 NOVEMBER 2014
My name is Yusuke Asai. I live in Kumamoto, Japan, and I am a painter. I studied ceramics in high school, but when I found it too expensive to go to university I decided to teach myself. I learned by going to the zoo and to museums, by studying the folk art and tribal art of many cultures, and by observing how people create things.
I do not decide on a story or meaning before I start painting. Imagery of figures and creatures comes to me in the moment. Fox, bird, cat, and sunshine - everything has a role; parts disappear and something is added. The world accepts it and keeps changing. I begin each work thinking of the countless small things that come together to make a larger world.
I choose to use the earth as a medium because I can find dirt anywhere in the world and do not need special materials. Dirt is by nature very different than materials sold in art stores! Seeds grow in it and it is home to many insects and microorganisms. It is a “living” medium.
The collection process and digging in the soil is so much fun, and they strengthen my feeling of connection to a place. yamatane (mountain seed) is made only of dirt from Texas, primarily Houston, and because time was short, Rice students, volunteers, and the gallery staff collected dirt color samples before my arrival. There are so many kinds of soil in Houston and Texas. They include a wide range of reds and yellows and even a rare shade of green. Initially I had hoped for 10 different shades, and ended up with 27: the widest spectrum of colors representing a specific place that I have ever used.
I accepted the ephemeral nature of dirt as a medium from the moment I started painting with it. Once dry, paint cannot be wiped away, but with the addition of water dirt can be removed from a surface. I have been doing this type of earth painting since 2008 and most of these works have already disappeared! There is a desire for artwork to be permanent, but to try and keep it forever would mean that my painting would become unnatural. When I erase the painting it is sad, but within the context of the natural world, everything is temporary.
- Yusuke Asai
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Born 1981 in Tokyo, Japan, Yusuke Asai began his artistic career by filling the margins of his textbooks with drawings. Graduating from Kamiyabe High School, Kanagawa in 1999 with a concentration in ceramics, he chose to forego college and instead to continue making art on his own. Having grown up in an urban setting and with little access to nature, Asai began to create his own version of the natural world, using tape to create drawings of plants that he called masking plants and experimenting with natural materials. In 2008, he turned to the earth itself - dirt - and since then has painted his mud murals throughout Japan. He has had solo exhibitions at the Aomori Contemporary Art Centre(2012) and Art Center Ongoing, Tokyo (2011), and his work has been represented at the Setouchi Triennale 2013, Rokko Meets Art 2012, and the Aichi Triennale 2010. Yusuke Asai lives in Japan\’s Kumamoto Prefecture and maintains a studio in Tokyo. He is represented by ARATANIURANO, Tokyo.
Yusuke Asai's installation has been commissioned in conjunction with the Menil Collections exhibition, Experiments with Truth: Gandhi and Images of Nonviolence, 2 October 2014 1 February 2015.
yamatane is the first event of Rice Gallery's yearlong Twentieth Anniversary celebration.
Photos by Nash Baker © nashbaker.com
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