The third exhibition by Yuko Sakurai in Galerie Friedrich Müller shows a combination of earlier works featuring oil on wood from 2005, 2008 and 2011, and her latest works, which were produced primarily in Japan. The various work series thus trace how Sakurai’s work has evolved. One constant element in her work is the reference in each to a place or region where the artist once lived, or has visited during her many travels. After living for many years largely in Europe, just under two years ago Yuko Sakurai relocated to Tsuyama, where she spent her childhood and youth. Her most recent works unmistakably reflect this move back to her native Japan with its specific scenic impressions and special social atmosphere.
The earlier works on wood (which among other places cite the Rhine Falls in Schaffhausen and West aan Zee in the Netherlands) are particularly defined by their preference for monochromatic composition; another feature is the careful elaboration of the surface structures. Here the oil paint is always also present as a material that is carefully molded and consequently exerts a strong tactile attraction. Yuko Sakurai very definitely sees her works as objects and by no means as paintings in the classic sense. Even though her more recent works have become much more painterly – as they are characterized more by color contrasts, layers of paint and blurring – nothing has fundamentally changed in her perception of them as objects. However, the trace left by the movement of paint and clarity of brushstroke are now of greater importance than the overall impression of textures.
The material chosen as a painting base and more recently the type of frame play a role that is not to be underestimated for the object-like appearance of her works. Yokono paper manufactured in Tsuyama is the preferred base medium for Sakurai’s latest production, a material that allows a nuanced and sensitive color treatment to evolve. She normally works the thin, semi-transparent, but extremely robust paper with a combination of oil and watercolor or oil paint and pastel crayon. In her small, glass-mounted works of the “Osasa” series the nuances of the paint are shown to particular advantage since here the light can penetrate the papers and accentuate the varying thicknesses of paint. The steel frames fashioned specially by a furniture maker from Tsuyama lend these paper works an appropriate space to unfold, and in addition emphasize their object character.